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A LARGE POLYCHROME WOOD FIGURE OF A SEATED BODHISATTVA
This lot is offered without reserve.
A LARGE POLYCHROME WOOD FIGURE OF A SEATED BODHISATTVA

CHINA, SONG-JIN DYNASTY (AD 960-1234)

Details
A LARGE POLYCHROME WOOD FIGURE OF A SEATED BODHISATTVA
CHINA, SONG-JIN DYNASTY (AD 960-1234)
Seated in padmasana with the hands raised in gesture, clad in heavy robes with a sash tied across the chest, the face with downcast eyes centered by an inset urna and the hair arranged in an elaborate topknot
35 ¼ in. (89.5 cm.) high
Provenance
The Collection of Robert H. Ellsworth, New York, acquired in New York, late 1940s.
Literature
A. Martin, “American Mandarin,” Connoisseur, November 1984, p. 97.
A. Juliano, “Robert H. Ellsworth Treasures the East,” Architectural Digest, October 1985, p. 106.
A. Christy, “Not for Sale: A Few of Robert Ellsworth’s Favourite Possessions,” Orientations, vol. 22, no. 6, June 1991, p. 57.
Special notice

This lot is offered without reserve.
Sale room notice
Please note this lot is being sold without the wood stand.

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Gemma Sudlow
Gemma Sudlow

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Lot Essay

This large and magnificently carved figure likely depicts the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, known in China as Guanyin. In Buddhism, bodhisattvas are beings who achieve enlightenment, but forgo the process of nirvana (the liberation from the cycle of rebirth) in order to act as spiritual guides for the rest of humanity. Unlike the Buddha, who is always depicted in the simple robes of a monk, bodhisattvas wear the rich garb of a prince, as seen with the present figure by the luxurious garments, armlets and necklace. Because of his compassionate nature and accessibility, Guanyin rivaled or even surpassed the Buddha in terms of popularity after his introduction to China.

Extant large wood sculptures of Guanyin from the Song and Jin dynasties are relatively rare, and in most cases the bodhisattva is depicted standing or in the “water-moon” posture, with one leg raised and the arm extended and resting on the knee. The present figure is part of a small corpus of works that depict Guanyin in the yogic padmasana, with the legs crossed in front of the body with the soles of the feet up; such a posture in Chinese sculpture is often reserved for images of Buddha. A few other examples of this type and from the same period are known, including the figure in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated by D. Leidy, Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2010, p. 125, cat. no. 27, and another in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, illustrated by R. Jacobsen, Appreciating China, Chicago, 2002, p. 62, no. 30.

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