Tibeto-Chinese, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Yongle reign (1403-1424)
Overall - h:43.60 cm (h:17 1/8 inches)
Gift of Mary B. Lee, C. Bingham Blossom, Dudley S. Blossom III, Laurel B. Kovacik, and Elizabeth B. Blossom, in memory of Elizabeth B. Blossom
Virupa is venerated as a founding master in the tantric tradition, depicted in the form of an unconventional Indian yogi. One of the most important aspects of tantric art is the role of the teacher. Because tantric practices are intended only for advanced initiates, legitimate teachers must convey
the meaning of the tantras and their commentaries. Virupa is credited with transmitting the Hevajra Tantra, a text on tantric practices explained to him in a vision by Hevajra’s consort, Nairatmya, the essence of Wisdom in female form.
The gesture of pointing at the sun references an episode in his hagiography. After he reached enlightenment, he could transcend the rules of society and nature. He stopped at a tavern to eat and drink, saying he would pay the bill when the shadow of the building reached a line he drew on the ground. He then stopped the movement of the sun for so long that the land became scorched, and the local king paid the bill.
On the pedestal is an inscription identifying the image as made in the imperial workshop of the third emperor of the Ming dynasty in China. While closely linked to Tibetan styles, the luxurious detailing, special gilding process, and the casting of the ornaments onto the body without use of inlay are Chinese characteristics.