Simhanada Avalokitesvara is a non-Tantra form of Avalokitesvara invoked to cure leprosy. The epithet 'Simhanada' means 'with the voice of a lion,' and is also applied to both Sakyamuni and Manjusri. It has been suggested that it may have a reference to an ancient legend in which the roaring of a lion was believed to awaken still-born babies to life. The appearance of the lion can sometimes lead to the identification of Manjusri, but the Buddha Amitabha in the crown indicates that the figure is in fact a manifestation of Avalokitesvara. Also, Manjusri is commonly depicted wearing a five-leaf crown, a reference to Wutaishan (Five-Peak Mountain), not seven-leaf as is the case with the present figure.
A related figure of Simhanada, seated on a recumbent qilin and also dated to the Ming period, was included in the exhibition, Sculpture and Ornament in Early Chinese Art, Eskenazi, London, June 11 - July 13, 1996, Catalogue, no. 33. Another bodhisattva, dated Yuan/early Ming period, also on a qilin, with hair arranged in tresses, was exhibited in Chinese Buddhist Sculpture, Eskenazi, London, June 10 - July 12, 1997, Catalogue, no. 15, and was later sold in our New York Rooms, 24th March 2004, lot 116. Compare also a figure illustrated by O. Sirn, 'Studien zur Chinesischen Plastik de Post-T'angzeit', Ostasiatische Zeitschrift, (New series, 4th year) vol. 1/2, Berlin, 1927, pl. 8, fig. 18. See, also, the figure of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra seated on an elephant illustrated by d'Argenc, ed., Chinese, Korean and Japanese Sculpture in the Avery Brundage Collection, Tokyo, 1974, pl. 149, which is dated to the Yuan dynasty. Another comparable figure, also a figure of Samantabhadra, was included in the exhibition, Ancient Chinese Sculptural Treasures: Carvings in Wood, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Art, 1998, no. 8, dated Yuan. A figure of Manjusri from the Leventritt Collection and dated to the Yuan period is illustrated by R. d'Argenc in Asian Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, Leipzig, 1978, fig. 202.
The present figure is in remarkably fine condition, and has been in the present owner's family since the 1920s. The illustrated photograph was taken in the 1950s with the figure in situ in the family residence. It is part of a larger collection of mainly Chinese works of art which were assembled mainly in the 1920s and 1930s.