When portrayed as an old man, this famous 11th century Tibetan teacher and translator is usually depicted in full monastic attire, seated in a relaxed manner, his hands over his knees.
His gown and meditation cloak are decorated with large circular motifs.
This is quite a different portrait of a younger Marpa, identified through an inscription at the back of the lotus base, his face painted with cold gold and pigments, his long black hair combed back, his hands in the ‘turning the wheel of dharma’ gesture.
Although there is no inscription to identify him, this lama with a square jaw, droopy eyes and thick matted hair is almost certainly Marpa, seated on a couple of cushions covered with a blanket.
This sculpture is very similar to another on display at the Met, previously labelled ‘early 12th century” and now labelled ’17th century’, published in a former post and reproduced below for comparison. We will see that the belt only has three layers arranged horizontally, and that the fingers are thicker and held apart. Also, the folds of the gown are rounder and make the fabric look softer.
Another portrait of a young Marpa with long hair, holding a rosary with both hands.
Bonhams tell us that this is one of a series of five portraits of the master. It is extraordinarily life-like and very similar to the 16th century item at the top of this page but only has one cushion and no inlay on his garments.