Lot 328
  • 328


500,000 - 700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Height 9 7/8  in., 25 cm
exquisitely cast, seated in lalitasana with the proper right leg slightly extended and supported by a blossoming lotus, two further blossoms with buds flanking each shoulder and connected to the outwardly-facing hands in vitarka and varada mudras by long, curving stems, the regal deity crowned with an elaborate diadem encircling a high topknot and set above a broad, tranquil face, the ears and body adorned with ornate jewelry, a celestial sash wrapping around the shoulders and arms, the waist sensuously defined above a low-slung dhoti, all raised on a double-lotus with scrolled embellishments to the petals, a horizontal six-character mark inscribed to the front of the base, retaining consecratory materials including miniature sutra scrolls


Christie's New York, 23rd March 1999, lot 126.

Catalogue Note

Early 15th century imperial gilt bronzes are considered by many to be a pinnacle of Chinese Buddhist bronze sculpture. Their origins can be traced to the Yuan dynasty, when the court espoused Tibetan Buddhism. Early 14th century woodblocks made for the monastery of Yangshen Yuan, Hangzhou, are evidence of a new style appearing in Chinese Buddhist art; see Heather Karmay, Early Sino-Tibetan Art, Warminster, 1975, pp. 47-50, pls 26, 29 and 30. The gently smiling faces, full rounded figures and tiered thrones in these woodblock prints reflect the Newar styles favored in Tibet, introduced into China by Nepalese artists such as Aniko. These illustrations could almost have been used as templates for Yongle period bronzes, such as the Speelman enthroned Buddha, sold in our Hong Kong rooms 7th October 2006, lot 808, and the similar example in the British Museum, illustrated in Craig Clunas and Jessica Harrison-Hall, Ming: 50 Years that Changed China, The British Museum, London, 2014. fig. 195. Although the imperial standards are evident from figure to figure, there is yet variety and originality found in Yongle sculpture. Many of the bronze figures of Avalokiteshvara are markedly different from one another whilst remaining faithful to standard stylistic requirements of the Yongle ateliers. The present figure has a more sinicized face, compared to the face of a Yongle mark and period Avalokiteshvara Padmapani from the Belgian collection of J.P.H.Y., illustrated in Jan Van Alphen, Cast for Eternity, Antwerp, 2004, cat. no. 78. The Belgian figure is flanked by straight lotus stems, has Newari-inspired facial features, and a lotus base with narrower petals. David Weldon suggests that it was worshipped in Tibet, as indicated by the blue pigment applied to the hair in local custom, Van Alphen, op. cit., p. 222. Similar broad petals are seen on another related Yongle mark and period Avalokiteshvara, sold at Christie's New York, 24th March 2004, lot 82, cast with facial features even more sinicized than those of the present figure. Yet another Yongle interpretation of this deity is seen in a mark and period figure from the Speelman Collection, sold in our Hong Kong rooms 7th October 2006, lot 807, with the hands set in different mudras, and with an additional foliate border encircling the lotus base. Despite their differences, all are finished and gilded to perfection, with the Yongle period hallmark sensuous casting of the body and style of adornment.

The wider petal style of the present figure's base is seen in Yongle mark and period bronzes of grander proportions, such as the Speelman and British Museum figures of Buddha, while the narrower petal base appears to be more often used for examples of smaller format. Other Yongle mark and period figures closely related to the present include one from the collection of Soame Jenyns, sold at Christie's London, 6th November 2018, lot 26, another sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 7th May 2002, lot 647, and another in the Chang Foundation collection, illustrated in Jintongfo zaoxiang tulu/Buddhist Images in Gilt Metal, Taipei, 1993, pl. 50.