This small image of Mila Repa in heavy, cast and etched brass is well-worn and was designed to be transported. Most probably it belonged to a Tibetan nomad and was carried from place to place and used on a small, portable altar. It might also have been worn, tied in a bundle of cloth, and suspended from the neck as a protective device.
Mila Repa sits in a position of ‘royal ease’. He can be readily identified by his gesture of holding his right hand up to cup his ear while singing. He is depicted with a loose, light fitting robe which is a reminder to the faithful of the ‘inner heat’ that the deity was able to accumulate from his refined yogic practice. His left hand holds a skull-cup of jewels.
Mila Repa sits on an antelope skin spread over a pedestal.
Mila Repa was a murderer as a young man who later turned to Buddhism. He is considered one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets, and came to be seen as a model Buddhist adherent and grew to become one of the most loved deities in Tibetan Buddhism. He is also regarded as one of the founders of the Kagyudpa sect.
The base and consecration is intact and has the splendid wear and rounded contours of the rest of the piece. Overall, this is a fine piece – the metal is mellow, and the age is obvious.
Reynolds, V., Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.
Reynolds, V. et al, From the Sacred Realm: Treasures of Tibetan Art from the Newark Museum, Prestel, 1999.