Chinese Works of Art

Splendour of a Rare Bronze

By Caroline Schulten

A large Ming dynasty bronze figure of Wenchang Wang, the Daoist god of literature and culture, leads the Sotheby's Paris Asian Art sale on 15 December. Notable for its impressive size — it stands over a metre high — the statue is also remarkable for its considerable weight; bronze figures of this large size cast in one piece are particularly rare as their manufacture presented a technical challenge and accomplishment. 

A MAGNIFICENT LARGE BRONZE FIGURE OF WENCHANG WANG, MING DYNASTY, 16TH/17TH CENTURY. ESTIMATE: €450,000—550,000. 

Details such as the three-peaked mountain flanked by the sun and the moon, the finely detailed five-clawed dragons adorning the hems of his voluminous robe and the fluttering sashes flanking his feet identify the figure as Wenchang Wang, one of the most important deities in the Daoist canon. A similar hat is also worn by a figure presenting one of the Three Purities, carved in high relief at the eight cave-temples at Long Shan in Shanxi province and attributed to the fourteenth century.

A MAGNIFICENT LARGE BRONZE FIGURE OF WENCHANG WANG, MING DYNASTY, 16TH/17TH CENTURY. ESTIMATE: €450,000—550,000. 

Known as Wenchang dijun, he was more commonly depicted holding a ruyi-sceptre but who is represented here holding a hu tablet. He is depicted seated, his expression benevolent and calm gazing ahead. Daoism flourished during the 16th and 17th centuries of the Ming dynasty when monumental bronze figures of Daoist deities were made under the imperial patronage of the Jiaqing and Wanli emperors.

A MAGNIFICENT LARGE BRONZE FIGURE OF WENCHANG WANG, MING DYNASTY, 16TH/17TH CENTURY. ESTIMATE: €450,000—550,000. 

This particular example is among the very few bronze figures of comparable monumental size that have survived. The presence of this figure in the sale presents a unique and rare opportunity to acquire an extraordinary piece of Chinese Imperial history. 

 

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