Buddhist gilt-bronze figures were produced in China almost from the beginning when Buddhism was embraced by various courts of China’s division after the Han dynasty (206BC – AD220). Until the Tang dynasty (607-906) however they remained very small. One of the earliest developments away from small votive images took place in the Khitan Liao dynasty (907-1125), when sculptures not only became bigger but also developed stylistically towards a more sculptural aesthetic. During the early Ming period the court took complete control of their production and a distinct classic style was devised that were determine the design of all future Chinese Buddhist gilt-bronze images such as the present.
Related gilt-bronze figures of Bhaisajyaraja Avalokitesvara of this large size include one sold at Christie’s New York, 21st November 1979, lot 410; another, but more elaborately bejewelled, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th April 1995, lot 606A; and a third example sold at Christie’s London, 29th April 1981, lot 89. Compare also slightly smaller examples, such as one sold in our New York rooms, 1st December 1992, lot 196; and two further figures also sold in our New York rooms, 18th October 1990, lots 195 and 197.
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