• Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works  auction at Christies

    Sale 2196

    Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections

    15 September 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 263

    A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF ACUOYE GUANYIN

    DALI KINGDOM, YUNNAN PROVINCE, 12TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF ACUOYE GUANYIN
    DALI KINGDOM, YUNNAN PROVINCE, 12TH CENTURY
    The tall, slender figure shown standing with right hand raised in vitarka mudra, the finely incised hair drawn up under a tiara into a tall topknot elaborately dressed with narrow braids arranged in a band and pendent loops which center an image of Amitabha Buddha seated in dhyanasana and fall to the shoulders behind the elongated earring-hung ears, wearing a jeweled and cloud-decorated necklace, foliate arm bands and a belt decorated with florets encircling the slim waist above the folded-over top of the dhoti secured by a sash drawn through a jeweled medallion into a bow, the thin fabric of the skirt falling in U-shaped folds to the bare feet and overlaid with another long sash pulled into loops at the hips before trailing down the sides, with a long rectangular tab projecting from a closed aperture in the back above another closed aperture below the waist, with traces of gilding and malachite green encrustation
    18¾ in. (47.6 cm.) high, stand


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    It was not until the American scholar Helen Chapin identified a group of bronzes in western collections as being of Yunnanese origin, based on a scroll painting known as the Long Scroll of Buddhist Images by the 12th century Yunnanese artist Zhang Shengwen, which she published in 1944, that the origin of these distinctive Dali or Yunnanese bronzes was first realized. In the late 1970s, restoration work at the Qianxu Pagoda, Yunnan province, uncovered a reliquary deposit which included a gold standing Guanyin similar in style to those bronzes in the West and to the present figure. The gold figure with its silver mandorla is illustrated by A. Lutz, 'Buddhist Art in Yunnan', Orientations, February 1992, p. 49, fig. 6. The article goes on to identify the figure as 'Acuoye Guanyin' (Ajaya Avalokitesvara: All Victorious Guanyin), who, according to legend, was an Indian monk who visited Yunnan in the seventh century as an incarnation of Guanyin.

    In the catalogue entry for a similar, but smaller, figure in the British Museum included in the exhibition, Buddhism: Art and Faith, British Museum, 1985, p. 206, no. 297, W. Zwalf states that these figures were made for the Dali court, appearing to have been made as talismans for the royal family.

    A similar bronze in the San Diego Museum bears an inscription ascribing it a Yunnanese provenance and a date between 1147 and 1172. See, H. Chapin, 'Yunnanese Images of Avalokitesvara', Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 8 (1944-5), pp. 131-86, pls. 3-6. Compare, also, the figure included in the exhibition, Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, China House Gallery, New York, 24 October-25 November 1979, no. 22; and two others from the Musée Guimet and the Freer Gallery of Art illustrated by H. Munsterberg, Chinese Buddhist Bronzes, Vermont/Japan, 1967, pls. 58 and 59 respectively. Both Chapin and Munsterberg discuss the Indian influence visible in these figures: the bare chest, slender body, tight-fitting skirt and conical hair treatment. Lutz also, op. cit., p. 48, refers to these bronzes as the "only sculptural form in Yunnan whose origins can be traced back to Southeast Asia".

    Other figures of this group are in various museum collections including the Brooklyn Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Sumitomo Collection; the Asian Art Musuem, San Francisco; the National Palace Museum, Taipei; and in the Yunnan Provincial Museum.

    See, also, the similar gilt-bronze figure of slightly smaller size (18 3/8 in.) sold in these rooms 19 September 2007, lot 188 and another, also of smaller size (17 7/8 in.), sold 18 March 2009, lot 532.

    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN COLLECTION