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Gilt bronze, inlaid with gold, silver, copper, turquoise, lapis and coral
Overall: 13.5 x 12 x 8.5 cm (5 5/16 x 4 3/4 x 3 3/8 in.); Base: 8 x 19 x 14 cm (3 1/8 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1993.160.b
This portrait of the founder of a prominent Buddhist monastic order in Tibet was commissioned by one of his followers shortly after his death and is considered by scholars to be the earliest known image of this lineage master. His highly individualized features and patched monk's robes lend a humanizing aspect to his formal yogic posture, mudras, and the elaborate lotus pedestal and throne. Auspicious symbols ornament the front of the top tier of the pedestal, which is draped in the middle with a luxurious textile. In the center, articulated in metal inlays of contrasting colors, are lions that flank a triad with the four-armed protector Mahakala, elephant-headed Ganesh, and a kneeling monk who is the patron of the sculpture. Female embodiments of enlightenment, known as dakinis, are in flying postures on the lower tier. The inscription on the back of the base states the patron's wish that the spiritual merit he accrued from commissioning this image of the "precious guru" be used to eradicate the sufferings of living beings.
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