This finely cast and gilded figure, in which the facial expression is depicted with exceptional naturalism, represents one of the Sixteen Luohan, considered to be the Elders of Buddhism and students of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. The bronze is likely to depict either Kanakabharadhvaja or Chudapanthaka, both figures often shown seated in the diamond posture with hands folded in meditation.
The luohan is from the same group as a particularly fine and expressive Qianlong series of luohan, of which four are now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, gifted by Natasha Rambova, 1963-155-7, 1963-155-8, 1963-155-9, 1963-155-10, and four sold in our New York rooms, 21st September, 2007, lots 48 and 49, also previously in the Rambova collection. See also other luohan from the series sold in our New York rooms, 24th March, 2011, lots 74 and 75 (previously sold 22nd September 2000, lot 23, sometime collection of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt II).
A series depicting the luohan would often comprise twenty-five bronzes altogether in keeping with post-16th century Sino-Tibetan tradition, with the Sixteen Great Luohan together with Dharmatala and Hvashang, Buddha Shakyamuni and his principal disciples Maudgalyayana and Shariputra, and the Four Guardians of the Directions, Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Virudhaka and Dhritarashtra.
The sculpture is distinguished by exquisite quality, poise and freedom of expression in common with the Rambova and Vanderbilt sculptures, with related cushion design and idiosyncratic rendering of the robes with deep folds and a loose collar. Typical of bronzes from the Qianlong period, the face and hands are not fire-gilded but painted with matte gold to create a naturalistic effect in contrast with the burnished mercury gilding of the robes and throne cushions.
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