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Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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A POLYCHROME GESSO AND WOOD BUST OF GUANYIN
JIN/YUAN DYNASTY
the face with downcast eyes in a contemplative pose, framed by long pendulous ears, wearing a high elaborate diadem centred with the figure of Amitabha Buddha, the hair neatly arranged over the brow, pulled up in a top knot and with two braids falling to the shoulder, the robe open at the chest revealing a necklace with rosettes and hanging tassels
61.5 cm, 24 1/4  in.
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Catalogue Note

Finely carved in the round, this imposing bust represents Guanyin, the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, as suggested by her elaborate crown that features a seated Buddha surrounded by flying apsaras. The large size as well as traces of pigment and gilt on the surface, hint at the original splendour of this figure. She would have been flanked by her assistant bodhisattvas and together created an arresting and majestic scene for visitors to the temple.

 

Surviving wood sculptures of such large dimensions are very rare; a similarly large bust of a bodhisattva, modelled with a related hair style, was sold in our New York rooms, 21st January 1982, lot 277; a sculpture of a seated bodhisattva, carved with a slightly more elongated face and attributed to the Ming period, from the collection of Fong Chow, was sold at Christie’s New York, 21st March 2013, lot 1196; and a torso attributed to the Ming period, from the collection of R. Teichert, was sold in our London rooms, 5th December 1995, lot 37.

 

The carver has skilfully captured the serenity and warmth of Guanyin, who is depicted as an approachable female figure with a full face and gentle smile, the eyes half closed and hair elegantly drawn into a high chignon. In this manifestation she is shown adorned with worldly accessories, such as the ornate necklace and crown, to emphasise her non-ethereal status, in sharp contrast to the stripped-black images of the Buddha. As it was believed that anyone who called on Guanyin during times of distress would be rescued by her, she is the most worshipped deity in Buddhism and thus frequently depicted.

Important Chinese Art

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London