Previously sold in our London Rooms, 5 June 1995, lot 106.
The present figure is cast seated in a relaxed pose known as rajalilasana, royal ease. In Buddhist sculpture this particular posture appears to be distinctive to Chinese Buddhist art, and was clearly a well-adopted sculptural formula in north China between the 10th and 14th centuries. Buddhist sculptures modelled in this form are often referred to as the 'Water-Moon Guanyin' or Nanhai Guanyin (Avalokitesvara of the Southern Seas). The name is in reference to Guanyin residing at Mount Potalaka on the southern coast of India and the imagery was introduced into China through the translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, in the 5th century.
It is very unusual to find large Buddhist figures of this date cast in bronze, rather than carved in wood (and often gilt). Examples of this type are illustrated in Hai-Wai Yi-Chen, Chinese Art in Overseas Collections, Buddhist Sculpture, The National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1986: no. 129, in the Seattle Art Museum; a very elaborate figure, no. 130 in the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art; no. 133, in the British Museum; and no. 134, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
It is interesting to note that the full rounded face of the present figure is comparable to the cited Buddhist sculptures carved of wood. By the Yuan and early Ming period, Water-Moon Guanyin figures are found of slimmer form; their diadems appear more simplified and the hair dressed in a stylised fashion. Cf. a gilt-bronze example date Yuan/early Ming period, in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, op. cit., 1986, no. 164, measuring 33.9 cm. high; and an early Ming example sold in these Rooms, 5 November 1997, lot 1071.