A SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA MING DYNASTY, XUANDE PERIOD
Collection of Henry Gibson Brock (1886-1940) and Margaret Cust Burgwin (1926-1961), Muncy, Pennsylvania, and thence by family descent.
Christie's New York, 18th/19th September 2014, lot 1025.
Tibetan iconography and artistic traditions, partly derived from the rich legacy of Newari craftsmen, had a significant influence on Chinese Buddhist art of the Yuan dynasty, and even more so at the courts of the Yongle and Xuande emperors. This influence manifests itself in a departure from the more rigid sinicised style to greater movement in the body, with S-curved posture, refined gestures and decoration of the body in opulent jewellery, as seen here.
Earlier Tibetan representations of Avalokiteshvara in relaxed ‘royal ease’ posture are rare, but a Central Tibetan fourteenth century bronze figure in the Royal Ontario Museum may be a possible prototype. Illustrated on Himalayan Art Resources, item no. 77540, it displays the same posture of royal ease, but is less lavishly decorated than the current figure, without such opulent jewellery.
The current figure can be attributed to the Xuande period due to its distinct stylistic similarities to Xuande reign-marked figures, including the figure of a kneeling Bodhisattva in the Berti Aschmann Foundation at the Rietberg Museum, illustrated in Helmut Uhlig, On the Path to Enlightenment, The Berti Aschmann Foundation of Tibetan Art at the Museum Rietberg Zurich, Zurich, 1995, no. 72. Both figures share the same distinct facial expression, with similar pronounced mastery of movement and lavish treatment of the crown, jewellery and robes. See also the similarities on a Xuande reign-marked gilt-bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara in the Victoria & Albert Museum, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Ming: Fifty Years that Changed China, the British Museum, London, 2014, fig. 203.
Similar depictions of elaborate festoons of jewelled chains can be found on other gilt-bronze images of Guanyin dated to the late Yuan-early Ming period, such as the figure from the Oppenheim Collection, now in the British Museum, illustrated by Wladimir Zwalf, ed., Buddhism: Art and Faith, London, 1985, no. 298. Compare also the similar treatment of the jewellery on a Yongle reign-marked gilt-bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara, sold in our London rooms, 7th November 2007, lot 362.