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Rare Clay & Polychrome Portrait Image of the Jonang Lama Dolpo Pa

Central or Southern Tibet
19th century

height: 20.5cm, width: 16.3cm, depth: 14.8cm



private collection, London, and acquired in the UK by the previous owner.

This substantial portrait image is of the highly respected teacher, Dolpo Pa Sherab Gyeltsen (1292 -1361), a head of Jonang Monastery in the 14th century, an offshoot or sub-sect of the Sakya Order. He was an influential and controversial teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. He systemised Buddha-nature and Yogacara-Madhyamaka thought in a teaching known as shentong. Conventionally, he is known simply as Dolpopa.

The image is of solid, unfired moulded clay and decorated with polychrome. The lama, of ample girth, is dressed in red robes of traditional Tibetan style and a red monk’s hat. His face, hands and the one visible foot are painted in gold.

Quite probably, this image would have been one of dozens made of patriarchs of the Sakya school. The representation is in a 15th century style but it is likely that the image was made in the 19th century and would have been stored along with others in a monastery.

The image is in fine condition. There is minor flaking to the polychrome here and there and a minor crack to the head. There are no significant chips or losses. Images of Dolpopa are relatively rare.


Lipton, B., & N.D. Ragnubs, Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art,Oxford University Press, 1996.

Reynolds, V., Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.

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