A rare inscribed gilt copper-alloy figure of Tsongkhapa Tibet, circa 15th century

Lot 72. A rare inscribed gilt copper-alloy figure of Tsongkhapa, Tibet, circa 15th century; 15.4cm (6 1/8in) high. Estimate £ 7,000-9,000. Sold for £ 8,750 (€ 10,013). © Bonhams.

The figure seated in lotus position on a double-lotus base with beaded rims, the hands in dharmachakra mudra each holding a lotus stem, wearing heavy inner and outer patchwork robes incised with floral scrolls at the hem, the face serene with a meditative expression, his hair cropped short, the back inscribed with a lengthy Tibetan inscription, the base sealed and incised with a double vajra.

Provenance: the Jeannette Claude Jongen collection of Buddhist Art.

Published and Illustrated: A.Neven, Etudes D'Art Lamaique et de L'Himalaya, Brussels, 1978, pp.124-125, f. 35 (the catalogue is offered as part of the lot).

NoteIt is most likely that the name 'Blo.gros.khang.bzang', invoked at the beginning of the two verses of the inscription, may refer to Tsongkhapa, whose spiritual name is Lobzang Dragpa (Blo.bzang grags.pa). Compare with a gilt-bronze figure of Tsongkhapa in the Nyingje Lam Collection, see J.Casey and D.Weldon, The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet, 1999, p.144, fig.62.

The inscription, translated by A.Neven, ibid., pp.124-125, reads as follows:

'Deep wisdom arises in the knowledge that the pitfalls (of the illusion) are destroyed. For the correct conduct we need to rely on the faith of the universe (?), then fame is spread to the three worlds. This venerable Lama deserves a respectful devotion. Knowledge leads to the celestial world and has possession of the triple gem (Buddha, the Buddha Law and the Community). Choosing the correct action provides a shining glory and fame to the cardinal, intermediate, nadir and zenith districts (The Ten Districts), the Southern Continent where Buddhism is taught, center of the world according to Indian Buddhist cosmography (India). Let us bow with devotion and purity of the body, speech and mind, before this glorious Lama. Be joyous!' 

Bonhams. FINE CHINESE ART, London, 12 November 2015