A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AN APSARA
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE JAPANESE COLLECTION
A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AN APSARA

EASTERN WEI DYNASTY (AD 534-550)

Details
A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AN APSARA
EASTERN WEI DYNASTY (AD 534-550)
The well-cast apsara is shown playing the sheng while kneeling on a lotus platform from which rise scarves that curve upwards to flank the ends of a celestial scarf that is wrapped under the figure's arms and rises on either side of the head where it is surmounted by a trefoil motif. There is a tiny hole at the bottom of the central lotus petal, and a small, pierced attachment tab that projects from the back. The figure is covered overall with gilding, except for the concave reverse of the lotus platform.
4 ½ in. (11.5 cm.) high, hardwood stand, Japanese wood box
Provenance
Osvald Sirén (1879-1966) Collection, Stockholm, Sweden.
Mayuyama Junkichi, Mayuyama Ryusendo, 1965.
Shirakawa Ichiro (1908-1994), artist, and thence by descent within the family.
Literature
Osvald Sirén, 'Documents D'Art Chinois de la Collection', Art Asiatica, 1925, no. 238.
Osvald Sirén, Histoire des arts anciens de la Chine, L'epoque Han les six dynasties, vol. II, Paris and Brussels, 1929, no. 119.
Ko-Bijutsu 10, 1965, essay by Mr. Shirakawa, pp. 99-100.
Ancient Chinese Art - The Origin of Japanese Art, Kagawa, 1968, no. F7.
The Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Art of the Six Dynasties, Osaka, 1975, p. 36, no. 3-166.
Mayuyama Seventy Years, vol. one, 1976, no. 114.
The Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Chinese Buddhist Sculpture, Osaka, 1984, pp. 85-6, no. 166.
Kuboso Memorial Museum of Arts, Gilt Bronze Buddha in Six Dynasties, Izumi, 1991, p. 76, no. 182.
The Museum Yamato Bunkakan, Chinese Gilt Bronze Statues of Buddhism, Tokyo, 1992, p. 64, no. 32.

Exhibited
Kagawa Prefecture, Kagawa Prefectural Cultural Hall, Ancient Chinese Art - The Origin of Japanese Art, 9 - 24 November 1968.
Osaka, The Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Art of the Six Dynasties, 10 October - 9 November 1975.
Tokyo, The Gotoh Museum, The Shape of Chinese Ancient Works - Yin to Tang Dynasty, 2 October - 8 November 1981.
Osaka, The Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, Chinese Buddhist Sculpture, 6 October - 11 November 1984.
Izumi, Kuboso Memorial Museum of Arts, Gilt Bronze Buddha in Six Dynasties, 1991.
Tokyo, The Museum Yamato Bunkakan, Chinese Gilt Bronze Statues of Buddhism, 2 October - 8 November 1992.

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Olivia Hamilton

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Lot Essay

This rare figure is an apsara, a Buddhist celestial being. These graceful figures are usually shown playing a musical instrument, here it is the sheng, a wind instrument, and are subsidiary figures placed in Buddhist shrines or as part of a paradise scene. This figure appears to come from the same group of apsara musicians as two very similar gilt-bronze figures in the Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, dated 6th century, and illustrated by H. Munsterberg in Chinese Buddhist Bronzes, Vermont/Tokyo, 1967, pls. 95 and 96, where the figures can be seen playing two different instruments, the pipa and the flute, respectively. These figures are unusual in that they are shown facing forward and kneeling rather than the more usual representation of being shown in flight with their scarves and garments floating behind them, as seen on the well-known Buddhist altar in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated ibid. pl. 116. The altar is centered by the figure of Buddha Maitreya and the apsaras are shown as if air-borne at the sides of the mandorla behind him.

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