This well-carved figure is a classic example of China's Buddhist sculpture of the Tang dynasty, one of the most dynamic and iconic periods for art. The body is exquisitely detailed, the thinness of the robes is demonstrated in the way they cling to the contours of the body while the draping jewelry emphasizes the subtle 'S' curve and fullness of the body. This pose, where more weight of the body is placed on one leg to cause the opposite hip to angle upwards slightly, results in a naturalistic rendering of the figure and a sense of movement. Apart from Buddhas which remained depicted in a formal, static pose to demonstrate their enlightened state, bodhisattvas, attendant figures and fierce guardians were rendered in this relaxed stance, a style that originated in Central Asia and India and was seamlessly absorbed into the splendid plasticity of Tang China.
In its material, carving style and finish, the present figure is reminiscent of some of the magnificent Tang sculptures of the Longmen Caves near Luoyang, Henan province. Compare a figure illustrated in situ in the Hujian Cave, which dates from 673AD, illustrated in Longmen Shiku, Shanghai, 1980, pl. 143; another from the Grosjean collection, published in Osvald Siren, Kinas Kunst Under Tre Artusenden, vol. II, Stockholm, 1943, fig. 73A; and two sold in these rooms, one from the collection of Raphael Petrucci, 26th March 1996, lot 223, and the other, 3rd December 1986, lot 280.
A figure with ornate jewelry similar to that on this piece, in the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, is published in Haiwai yi-chen, vol. II, Taipei, 1990, pl. 125; and another from the Parish Watson collection, is illustrated in Osvald Siren, Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century, vol. 3, New York, 1970, pl. 376B.