Arts d'Asie

Arts d'Asie

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 55. An important carved limestone figure of a Buddha, Northern Wei dynasty, 6th century | 北魏六世紀 石灰岩雕佛立像.


An important carved limestone figure of a Buddha, Northern Wei dynasty, 6th century | 北魏六世紀 石灰岩雕佛立像

Auction Closed

June 14, 03:20 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 EUR

Lot Details


Property from a European Private Collection

An important carved limestone figure of a Buddha

Northern Wei dynasty, 6th century

Height 107 cm, 42⅛ in.


Collection particulière européenne

Importante statue de Bouddha en calcaire, dynastie Wei du Nord, VIe siècle



北魏六世紀 石灰岩雕佛立像

Collection of Friedrich Alfred Schmid Noerr (1877 - 1969).

Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner, 15th January 1963, and thence by family descent.


Fr. A. Schmid Noerr (1877 - 1969)珍藏


Smile of Enlightenment and Benevolence

Regina Krahl

Chinese Buddhist stone sculpture experienced one of its greatest moments in the Northern Wei period (386–534), when it was strongly patronized by the imperial court. As the Northern Wei ruling family gradually adopted a more and more Chinese lifestyle, a stylistic change also took place in Buddhist sculpture during this period. Buddhist images with foreign-looking features, which had been adopted from Indian and Central Asian prototypes, when the religion was first introduced to China, gradually disappeared and were replaced by more Chinese-looking Buddha figures. One of the most enchanting styles appeared in the late Northern Wei, as represented by the present figure, when faces with fine and noble features were depicted with a faint smile, signalling enlightenment as much as benevolence. That the deities thus appeared more approachable undoubtedly helped the rapid propagation of the religion at that time.

In sculptural terms, the period is also remarkable for the introduction of the standing figures’ poses, which is marked by a slight S-curve, with head somewhat inclined, shoulders held erect and hip thrust forward, thus seemingly breathing some life into the solid blocks of stone. With thin, voluminous garments closely enveloping the body, we can glean the contours of lissom shoulders, arms and legs. Although the hands are missing from the present statue, the poses of the arms show that the Buddha was depicted in the most characteristic stance, with the right hand in the abhaya (fear not), the left in the varada (wish-granting) mudra.

Related sculptures of the sixth century were discovered among many hoards of Buddhist stone sculptures discovered in Shandong province, the best known and best-researched of which is the find from the site of Longxing Temple, Qingzhou, where hundreds of Buddhist images had been ritually buried, perhaps as a meritorious deed in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) after having been partially destroyed during some earlier anti-Buddhist movement. Bronze and stone sculptures of this period were also discovered at many other sites in Shandong, which are less well known, but a list of such sites, with a map, has been published by Zhang Zong in Return of the Buddha, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2002, pp. 44-6.

Several late Northern Wei steles and stele fragments from the Longxing Temple site are displaying a similar graceful pose and serene expression, with crisply cut features and dense curls of hair, are dressed in similarly draped monks’ robes, and are supported on similar circular plinths; compare a single Buddha figure illustrated in Masterpieces of Buddhist Statuary from Qingzhou City, Beijing, 1999, pp. 48/9; triad steles with Buddhas flanked by bodhisattvas, pp. 59 and 61, and Buddha heads, pp. 50 and 90.

Several related monumental Northern Wei Buddha statues datable to the 520s are still standing in Shandong province, see Return of the Buddhaop.cit., p. 34, fig. 18 and p. 45, fig. 35. Related Buddha heads have also been discovered under the pagoda of Mingdao Temple in Linqu county, see Return of the Buddhaop.cit., p. 46, fig. 36. A slightly later triad stele dating from the Northern Qi dynasty (550–577), with a Buddha flanked by bodhisattvas, was excavated in Boxing county, Shandong, and is illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji: Diaosu bian [Complete series on Chinese art: Sculpture section], Beijing, 1988, vol. 3, p. 12 top left.

Another similar triad stele, dated in accordance with 507, is included in Shi fo pian. Lai zi Beijing Baoli Bowuguan Yuanmingyuan zhongxian Taiwan [Stone Buddha section: From Poly Art Museum, Beijing, the Old Summer Palace reappears in Taiwan], Taipei, 2002, pp. 12/13, together with a fragmentary example dated in accordance with 533, p. 18, and with a fragmentary standing Buddha figure, pp. 24-7. A stele centred by a similar Buddha figure was also published online in April 2024 as ‘Object of the Month’ by Gisèle Croës, Brussels.

A related style, but with garment folds carved in somewhat higher relief and thus obscuring the body contours further, was prevalent at the same time in Shaanxi province, as seen on the figure of Maitreya from a triad stele dated in accordance with 534, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession no. 19.16), illustrated in Matsubara Saburō, Chūgoku Bukkyō chōkoku shiron [Historical survey of Chinese Buddhist sculpture], Tokyo, 1995, vol. 1, pl. 199 and in Osvald Sirén, Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century, London, 1925 (reprint Bangkok, 1998), pl. 143, where another related stele from Shaanxi, in the collection of R. Gualino, Turin, is illustrated pl. 138. Matsubara also publishes a related Northern Wei triad stele in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., pl. 201, which Sirén attributes to Henan, op.cit., pl. 183, that equally displays the general style of the period, but in a somewhat different local interpretation.

Friedrich Alfred Noerr (1877-1969) was a German philosopher and writer. He grew up in Baden and taught philosophy and aesthetic at the university of Heidelberg, pursuing also a career as a writer associated with the Neo-Romantic movement. 






相類造像中,最為知名者要屬山東青州龍興寺,曾出土窖藏佛造像數百尊。或為經歷滅佛運動,部分佛像遭受波及,北宋時期入窖藏之。山東其他地區亦出土同時期銅、石造像,未若龍興寺造像群盛名,但其分布,可參考 Zhang Zong,《Return of the Buddha》,皇家藝術學院,倫敦,2002年,頁44-46。


現今山東仍存數尊相類的北魏大型佛造像,紀年約520年,見《Return of the Buddha》,前述出處,頁46,圖36。還有一件紀年北齊的佛三尊碑,一佛二菩薩,出土於山東博興縣,刊錄於《中國美術全集:雕塑編》,北京,1988年,卷3,頁12右上。

另一件類同的佛三尊碑,紀年507年,出版於《石佛篇:來自北京保利博物館圓明園重現台灣》,台北,2002年,頁12-13,同錄一殘件,紀年533年,頁18,還有一件佛立像殘件,頁24-27。另一件主佛風格類似的造像碑,載於2024年4月 Gisèle Croës 於網路出版的〈Object of the Month〉,布魯塞爾。

參考一件風格相似之佛三尊造像碑,但衣褶紋路更高浮雕,隱蔽佛身輪廓,同時期盛行於陝西一帶,藏於紐約大都會藝術博物館(藏品編號:19.16),紀年534年,刊載於松原三郎,《中囯仏教彫刻史論》,東京,1995年,卷1,圖版199,及 Osvald Sirén,《Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century》,倫敦,1925年,圖版143,並錄一件陝西出土石碑,出自杜林 R. Gualino 收藏,圖版138。松原氏亦載錄華盛頓特區佛利爾美術館藏一件北魏造像碑,圖版201,此例 Sirén 斷為河南,前述出處,圖版183,一樣展現此時期風格,但帶有不同區域的造像特色。

Friedrich Alfred Noerr(1877-1969年)為德國哲學家與作家,出身巴登,於海德堡大學教授哲學與美學,出版新浪漫運動相關叢書。