Lot 562
  • 562


80,000 - 120,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Height 12 5/8  in., 32.1 cm
the deity carved in the round with a slender physique and gently rounded face, the proper right arm bent at the elbow with the hand raised beside the chest, the left arm at the side and holding a covered vase, the sashes falling in folds from the narrow shoulders and the dhoti clinging to the body in the 'wet drapery' effect revealing the slight swell of the lower belly and the contours of the thighs, a heavy necklace with petal-form pendants hanging at the chest along with a double-chain suspending a large lotus bud-form ornament, a further double-chain punctuated with rosettes hanging down the front of the body, the face with a benevolent expression, a subtle smile playing across the lips and long eyebrows arching above the lowered eyelids, the hairline mirroring the curvature of the brows, the hair pulled into a high chignon and partially concealed by an elaborate five-peaked diadem, each peak supporting a tasseled roundel, a large jewel suspended in front of the urna and beaded strands hanging in loops between the roundels, a long sash securing the diadem at back of the head, the loose ends streaming down behind the pendulous ears, a natural soft brown patina coating the surface, affixed to a marble stand (2)


Collection of Jakob Goldschmidt (1882-1955), acquired circa. 1920s-1930s, and thence by descent.
Sotheby's New York, 23rd March 2004, lot 626.
Eskenazi, Ltd, London.

Catalogue Note

The present figure exemplifies the refinement of Buddhist sculpture in the late Northern Qi (550-577) and early Sui (581-605) dynasties.  The sumptuousness of the present figure of Avalokiteshvara testifies to the status of Buddhism in the latter half of the 6th century. The founding emperor of the Northern Qi dynasty, Gao Yang (r. 550-559, also known as the Wenxuan Emperor), was an avid adherent and patron of Buddhism. In the same year that he ascended the throne, he took an oath to be a lay disciple of Fashang (495-580), and the following year he declared his intention to devote one-third of the state’s annual revenue to the Buddhist establishment. He and subsequent Northern Qi emperors—particularly, Emperor Wucheng (r. 561-565) and Emperor Houzhu (r. 565-577)—sponsored the construction of numerous Buddhist temples, monasteries, and grottoes; invited illustrious monks, such as Huizang (522-605), to give public lectures; oversaw significant translation projects of Sanskrit sutras; and encouraged the chief strategist Tang Yong (d. ca. 581) and his followers to carve the Buddhist cannon into stone in order to preserve the scriptures at Yunjusi (‘Cloud-dwelling Temple’) outside of Beijing. These rulers were keenly interested in the power of meditation and the promulgation of the faith. Records state that during the Northern Qi, there were over 4,000 major temples in the capital Ye alone. These temples and the related grottoes provided places to learn or practice meditation, as well as an immense demand for artisans (especially stone carvers) to create devotional works to fill their spaces. The imperial project of patronizing Buddhism continued in the Sui dynasty, during which time Sui emperors utilized the religion—including the institutions, monks, and craftsmen that enabled the faith to spread—as a strategy to unify the empire.

The present figure of Avalokiteshvara bears a strong correlation to Northern Qi and early Sui sculptures in both stone and gilt-bronze. A strikingly similar stone figure of Avalokiteshvara of the same scale, with the same attributes and style of dress, and standing on a base carved with devotees and lions, in the collection of Jan Kleijkamp and Ellis Monroe, was exhibited at five museums, including the H. M. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, and published in Alfred Salmony, Chinese Sculpture: Han (206 B. C. – A. D. 22) to Sung (A. D. 960-1279), New York, 1944, pl. XVI. Another stone sculpture of this type, formerly in the collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris, is published in Osvald Sirén, Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century, New York, 1925, pl. 268B. The above two sculptures both feature a mandorla at the back of the bodhisattva’s head and a ‘lion’ stand, and the latter has preserved polychrome pigment, thereby suggesting the original state of the present sculpture before those elements were lost. A third stone figure of this type, also with Avalokiteshvara standing on a pedestal, and with a bouquet of flowers rising from the vase, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York is published in Hai-wai yi-chen: Chinese Art in Overseas Collections, Buddhist Sculpture, vol. 2, Taipei, 1990, pl. 89. A gilt-bronze figure sharing the characteristics of the present figure and cast standing on lotus bud above a stand with openwork lions in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is published in René-Yvon Lefebvre d’Argencé et al., Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Sculpture in the Avery Brundage Collection, San Francisco, 1974, pl. 67; a related gilt-bronze figure is published in Saburo Matsubara, Chinese Buddhist Sculpture: A Study Based on Bronze and Stone Statues other than Works from Cave Temples, Tokyo, 1966, pl. 159; and two others of this general type are published in Osvald Sirén, op. cit., pls 282D and 282E. A Northern Qi stone carving of a standing bodhisattva, though with heavier features than the present example, sold in our London rooms, 15th May 2013, lot 147; and a taller version with simplified details, sold in these rooms, 17th September 2014, lot 416.