Lot 18
  • 18


50,000 - 80,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Height 11 in., 28 cm 
the hollow head sensitively executed, the expressive face with a prominent brow above almond-shaped eyes, wide open and inset with black glass bead pupils, the nose slightly hooked above the straight mouth, applied overall with brown lacquer flaked in parts to reveal the hemp layers below 


Nagatani, Inc., Chicago, 2nd November 1959. 
Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978). 

Catalogue Note

Naturalistic and realistic qualities in Buddhist sculpture were particularly sought-after during the Song dynasty. The 'dry lacquer' technique, as seen on the present head,  lends itself to expressive sculpture, and was capable of producing religious sculpture with unprecedented levels of realism that no other material or technique could evoke.  The dry lacquer process involved first sculpting the figure in clay over a stick-like wooden model. Patches of lacquered hemp were then pasted onto the clay. These were then covered with further lacquer layers, which could be sculpted in greater detail and carved to give expressive qualities. Finally the surface was painted in polychrome pigments. Once completed, the original construction of wood and clay were hollowed out and removed, leaving only the fragile skin of hemp and lacquer. The number of extant Song dynasty religious images made in this complex and sophisticated technique is relatively low, largely due to the time-consuming and demanding production process as well the vulnerability of material. 

Compare a related dry lacquer head of a luohan in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, formerly in the collection of Charles B. Hoyt, included in the exhibition The Charles B. Hoyt Collection. Memorial Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1952, cat. no. 533. A slightly later head, attributed to the Liao - Jin period, in the Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas, is illustrated in Laurence Sickman and Alexander Soper, The Art and Architecture of China, Baltimore, 1960, pl. 82.