Images from the Dali Kingdom were not recognised as such and were often misattributed. In 1944, American scholar Helen Burwell Chapin, who had studied and published the Yunnanese artist's Zhang Shengwen's Long Scroll of Buddhist Images, discovered that a group of bronze images in Western collections actually originated in Yunnan. She published her findings in her ground-breaking article 'Yunnanese Images of Avalokitesvara', Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 8, 1944, pp. 131-186. Since then, many images have been reattributed as being from the Dali Kingdom, such as a related figure of Amitabha Buddha, but adorned with an additional elaborate necklace, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28th April 1998, lot 604, where it was attributed to the Liao dynasty. That figure has since been reattributed to the 12th century of the Dali Kingdom by Marylin M. Rhie, in her article 'An Early Tibetan Thangka of Amitayus', Orientations, October 1998, p. 79, fig. 7.
Buddha images from the Dali kingdom are rare and are found cast with hands in a variety of different mudra; see a related example, now in the Shanghai Museum, attributed to the second half of the twelfth century, illustrated in Christian Deydier, Thirtieth Anniversary 1980-2010, Paris, 2011, p. 30. The shape of the body, the presence of an armband, and the way the folds of the robes are rendered is very similar to the drapery of the present lot. Further figures of a seated Buddha include a gilt-lacquered example sold in our New York rooms, 20th March 2012, lot 60; a gilt bronze version sold at Christie's Paris, 14th December 2016, lot 56; another from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, sold at in our London rooms, 6th July 1976, lot 24, and again at Christie's New York, 20th March 2014; and a fourth figure in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, included in the exhibition The Arts of the T'ang Dynasty, Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, 1957, cat. no. 97, now reattributed to the mid-eleventh century of the Dali Kingdom.
Historical texts claim that the Buddhism of Dali was influenced by the Hu (a general Chinese term for people from China's northern and western frontiers), the Fan (a general term used to describe ancient India and Sanskrit, and also Tibet) and the Han Chinese. There was also clearly communication between Burma and the kingdoms of Southeast Asia. All these influences give their images a pan-Asian feel which is natural, considering the Dali Kingdom's location and the trade routes at the time.
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