During the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries, the authority of Mongol rulers had become closely associated with Tibetan Buddhist or Lamaist rituals. At the beginning of the 15th century, the Buddhist fervor of the Ming court stimulated a cross-cultural and artistic exchange between Tibet and China. Emperor Yongle (1403-25), a devout Buddhist himself, bestowed generous patronage to Buddhist monasteries and artistic ateliers, fostering the production of artworks depicting Tibetan Buddhist deities and imagery in a highly refined style, executed with the highest level of technical mastery. Gilt bronzes were commissioned from the Imperial workshops in Beijing for personal religious practices and as gifts for the many Tibetan emissaries invited to the court. The practice continued under his successor Xuande with gradual decline.
Generally standardized in three different sizes, this bronze belongs to the largest size group. While it does not bear the reign mark, it can be dated to the first half of the 15th century based on the close proximity in style to the Yongle/Xuande idiom. It would likely represent Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, holding lotus stalks with separately cast lotus flowers originally flanking his shoulders. For another closely related form with the Yongle mark, see Chang Foundation, Buddhist Images in Gilt Metal, 1993, p. 115, cat. no. 50.