3626
3626

PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PENSIVE BODHISATTVA
NORTHERN QI DYNASTY
Estimate
700,000900,000
JUMP TO LOT
3626

PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PENSIVE BODHISATTVA
NORTHERN QI DYNASTY
Estimate
700,000900,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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Hong Kong

A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PENSIVE BODHISATTVA
NORTHERN QI DYNASTY
cast seated in rajalilasana, the right elbow rested on the raised right knee, clad in a long dhoti falling into neat pleats and draped over with a shawl, the face with a benevolent expression, crowned with a three-leaf diadem extended to long tassels falling down the sides of the figure, the reverse of the head with a loop for the attachment of a mandorla, all supported on a cylindrical base, fitted gilt wood stand
the figure 8.2 cm, 3 1/4  in.
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Exhibited

The Crucible of Compassion and Wisdom. Special Exhibition Catalog of the Buddhist Bronzes from the Nitta Group Collection, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1985, pl. 69.

Literature

Matsubara Saburō, Chūgoku bukkyō chōkoku shiron/The Path of Chinese Buddhist Sculpture, Tokyo, 1995, vol. 2, pl. 484a.

Catalogue Note

The Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) was one of the most vibrant periods in the history of Chinese art, both religious and secular, as its openness towards foreigners, their ideas, beliefs and goods immensely enriched the local cultural climate. It was within this cosmopolitan climate that Buddhist sculpture experienced perhaps its most glorious moment. While in the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), manners of depiction were adapted from traditional South and Central Asian prototypes, in the Northern Qi they had matured and developed into distinctive native styles. However they still emanate the seriousness of strong religious beliefs, which were rooted in the political instability of the mid-6th century, and had not yet moved towards the pleasant and more decorative imagery of the Tang dynasty (618-907).

The iconography of this exquisite gilt-bronze figure, depicted seated with one leg down and the other crossed with the foot resting on the other knee, is known as the ‘pensive pose’. The iconography appeared in Buddhist art from Gandhara, but had its roots in the Classical West, where representations of thinkers and mourners in Greece are depicted with head raised, and finger extended to the face. The identity of figures seated in this particular pose has been the subject of debate and has traditionally been recognised as either Prince Siddhartha (later the Buddha Shakyamuni) or the bodhisattva Maitreya. While in the 4th and 5th centuries this pose was indeed used to represent the former, after 550 it was increasingly used in conjunction with Maitreya worship (see the catalogue to the exhibition China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004, p. 266). A Northern Wei period carving of a princely figure seated in the ‘pensive’ pose was carved in cave 6 at Yungang, illustrated in Mizuno Seiichi and Nagahiro Toshio, Yun-kang, Kyoto, 1951-56, vol. 3, pl. 5, and in Junghee Lee, ‘The Origins and Development of the Pensive Bodhisattva Images of Asia’, Artibus Asiae, vol. 53, no. 3/4, 1993, fig. 12. Often referred to as the Future Buddha, Maitreya is a bodhisattva in the ‘pensive’ pose; in this position he is contemplating his impending final reincarnation and future enlightenment. For further discussion, see the catalogue to the exhibition China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004, p. 266.

A Tang bronze figure of a pensive bodhisattva in the Shanghai Museum is illustrated in Zhongguo Meishu Quanji. Diaosu bian [The complete series on Chinese art. Sculpture], vol. 4: Sui Tang Diaosu [Sculptures from the Sui and Tang dynasties], Beijing, 1988, pl. 55. For an example in stone, see the Northern Qi white marble triad of a pensive bodhisattva flanked by two attendants, dated to 559, sold in our New York rooms, 12th September 2018, lot 6.

Important Chinese Art

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Hong Kong