The closest comparable Northern Qi bronze sculptures of similar quality are a larger (28.1 cm) figure of Avalokitesvara in the collection of the Atami Museum, illustrated in Hugo Munsterberg, Chinese Buddhist Bronzes, Tokyo, 1967, fig. 45. See also a massive (64 cm high) gilt-bronze figure of a bodhisattva, complete with mandorla and stand, collected from Weifang, and now housed in Shandong Provincial Museum, included in the exhibition Treasures of Ancient China, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 2004, fig. 107. It shares the same posture, mudras, treatment of the jewellery as the current figure. The spectacular mandorla and elaborate lotus plinth, both intricately conceived with openwork cast flowers, provide an insight into how the current figure would originally have appeared. See also another figure of Avalokitesvara from the Northern Zhou period in the collection of the Tokyo University of Arts, illustrated in Munsterberg, op. cit., figs. 46a-b.
No other Northern Qi period bronze figure of this stature and quality appears ever to have been offered at auction. More commonly found votive bronze figures include a gilt-bronze figure of a bodhisattva, dated in accordance with 574, sold at Christie’s New York, 19th September 2007, lot 184, and a gilt-bronze figure of Maitreya from the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, offered in our New York rooms, 19th/20th March 2007, lot 725.
For Northern Qi dynasty representations of Avalokitesvara in sandstone, compare the large figure, also from the collection of Sakamoto Gorō, dated in accordance with 576, illustrated by Osvald Sirén, Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century, London, 1925, pl. 230 A and B, and Saburo Matsubara, Chugoku Bukkyo Choukoku Shi Kenkyu/Chinese Buddhist Sculpture, Tokyo, 1966, pl. 164 (a)-(c), and offered in these rooms, 8th October 2013, lot 139. It is iconographically very close to the current bronze figure, sharing the same standing posture, similar treatment of the drapery, jewellery, feet, and the slightly forward-bent body, characteristic of the period. Regina Krahl’s description of the Sakamoto sandstone figure in her essay, ‘A Classic Northern Qi Sculpture’, can be equally applied to the current figure:
"The Northern Qi period (550-577) was one of the most innovative and distinctive periods for the art of stone carving in China – as well as for other art forms – when the sculptors embarked on a departure away from the more elementary, foreign-influenced style practised during the Northern Wei period (386-534) towards a distinctive Chinese Buddhist imagery.
The present figure shows the even features and beatific expression characteristic of this period, and the forward-bent body displays the marked curve in profile that makes the solid stone torso come to life. The rich jewellery and ornamentation is represented in a modest fashion that lends gravity and dignity to the deity without veering towards ostentation."
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