Tibet, Tsong Khapa (2)

14th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

14th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This is an early and exceptional sculpture of Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), founder of the Gelug order. He is seated in the lotus position, his body tightly wrapped in patched garments made of long strips of metal. He wears a meditation cloak and the pointed hat of his order, and holds the long stem of two lotus flowers attached to his elbows. The lotus to his left supports a manuscript. His large and beautifully-made hands do the ‘turning the wheel of dharma’ gesture (dharmacakra mudra). The hem of his robe is finely incised with a lotus design (see below). He has the face of an old man, with sunken eyes and wrinkles on his forehead.

Tsong Khapa, Tibet, 14th c., detail

15th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, brass, photo by Bonhams.

15th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, brass, photo by Bonhams.

This is a later but equally exceptional portrait of a youthful but pot-bellied lama, seated on a typical 15th century lotus base. His hands in the dharmacakra mudra, he holds the long stem of two  lotuses, one supports a manuscript topped with a flaming pearl, the other has the hilt of a sword stemming from it. The hem of his robe and his meditation cloak are finely incised with lotus flowers, his eyes are inlaid with silver. The inscription on the base identifies him as Tsong Khapa.

17th century, Tibet , Tsong Khapa, gilt copper alloy, private collection.

17th century, Tibet , Tsong Khapa, gilt copper alloy, private collection.

On this sculpture, with a typical 17th-18th century double-lotus base, we see him without lotuses and less idealised. He is a little plump, with realistic facial features, his eyes closed in meditation, his hands not quite in the usual dharmacakra position, his feet supple and fleshy.

17th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, gilt copper repoussé,

17th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, gilt copper repoussé,

Most sculptures dating from the 17th century onwards are heavily gilt and depict him in a standard way.

 

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Tibet, Tsong Khapa

16th century, Tibet, teacher Tsong Khapa, gilt copper alloy, private collection.

16th century, Tibet, teacher Tsong Khapa, gilt copper alloy, private collection.

The founder of the Gelugpa order is sometimes represented as a deified lama, holding two long-stemmed lotuses, one topped with a manuscript and the other with a lotus bud. Here he is sitting on a small double-lotus base with almost rectangular petals and only one row of thick beading, bare-headed, his eyes closed in rapture, his hands in a symbolical gesture, wearing a monastic robe with an incised hem. The double-lotus base is decorated with two snow lions.

16th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, dark metal with copper inlay, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA).

16th century, Tibet, Tsong Khapa, dark metal with copper inlay, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA).

This is a similar representation but with a different mudra or hand-gesture, the smiling face and the arms are painted with cold gold, the lips and eyes are painted with pigment, there are traces of blue and green pigment on the lotuses and two small gemstones. The hem of the garment is delicately incised with a floral pattern. The double-lotus base is decorated with snow lions.