18. Milarepa
(cat. pl. 40)
c. 14th-15th centuries
Gilt Copper
h, 26.4 cm


The representation of this hierarch differs dramatically from that of the previous examples. The use of gilt copper and the manner of depicting the thin, close-fitting robe suggest conversance with Nepalese artistic traditions. This Tibetan image reflects the close ties between Tibetan patrons and Nepalese artists during the period of burgeoning monastic growth of the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Although the figure is not identified by an inscription, it may be inferred that it represents Milarepa through comparisons with painted portraits of this period.346 A c. fourteenth-century painted image of Milarepa depicts him wearing an ear plug, as in this image and in another in this collection which is identified by an inscription as Milarepa (pl. 43).347 The different iconographies of the two Milarepa sculptures in the Nyingjei Lam Collection may be explained by the suggestion that this gilded image presents the figure in his guise as a hierarch of the Kagyu lineage, as in the Taklung and Riwoche paintings. (cat. pl. 40)

346. The Taklung and Riwoche corpus of paintings depict Milarepa in various meditative or teaching guises, but always with the light-coloured robe, generally worn as it is in this image. See Singer (1997). In a c. 1200 portrait of Tashipel, he appears demonstrating the same mudra as in this gilded image, ibid. , p. 55.
347. Published in Singer and Denwood (1997), p. 15. Note also that the hair is depicted in a similar fashion to that of this gilded image.

images © Nyingjei Lam
text © D. Weldon, Jane C. Singer