Shown seated in padmasana on a stylized double-lotus base with the right hand in abhaya mudra and the left in varada mudra, clad in loosely draped robes, the face with elongated eyes and serene expression, the head backed by a nimbus
30 ½ in. (77.5 cm.) high
The Collection of Robert H. Ellsworth, New York, before 1984.
A. Martin, “American Mandarin,” Connoisseur, November 1984, p. 98.
S. Matsubara, Chuugoku Bukkyo Chokokushi Ron, vol. 2, Tokyo, 1995, pl. 443(c).
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This lot is offered without reserve.

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Lot Essay

This powerful figure of Buddha captures the dynamic sculptural style of the Sui period, when rapid stylistic changes occurred over a relatively short period of time. White and green pigments are still clearly visible on the nimbus, and red pigment can be found on the robes in recessed areas, including under the left hand, indicating that at one time the figure would have been richly painted. Certain elements of the figure follow typical Sui stylistic conventions, such as the somewhat parallel folds of drapery arranged across the center of the torso, and the prominent ushnisha that covers almost the entirety of the head. Compare the similar figure in the Freer Gallery of Art dated to 582 illustrated by O. Sirén in Chinese Sculpture: From the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century, vol. II, 1925, (1988 ed.), pl. 306.

At the same time, the present figure displays characteristics that illustrate the transitional nature of the Sui period. The ornate and stylized folds of drapery that fall below the knees references the earlier Northern Wei and Northern Zhou periods, where drapery was depicted in fantastic cascading pleats. One can also discern the stylistic origins of Tang sculpture in the present work, particularly in the design of the two-tiered lotus base. The middle column of the base, while only four-sided, was intended to appear octagonal from the front, representing the Eight-Fold Path of Buddhism. This feature, along with the miniature columns carved in the round, are distinctive characteristics of later Tang stone sculpture.

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