Portraits in bronze

One of the many treats in “Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism” at the Rubin Museum of Art are two bronze portraits of lamas.  We see so many idealized Buddha and bodhisattva figures, it’s easy to forget that the sculptors were also capable of expressing people’s individuality.  Meet lama Change Rolpai Dorje — whom Emperor Qianlong (who ruled from 1736 to 1796) appointed state preceptor —

and the Fifth Dalai Lama who, in 1642, assumed the kingship of Tibet, thereby becoming Tibetans’ spiritual as well as political leader.  He also created a long reincarnation genealogy for himself that tied linked him to highly regarded secular and religious figures the past.

For more about the exhibition, see the museum’s website and any number of reviews, including mine for the WSJ.

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