Post Lot Text
When the site of Dunhuang was established as a frontier garrison outpost by the Han Dynasty Emperor Wudi to protect against the Xiongnu in 111 BC, it became an important gateway to the West and a centre of commerce along the Silk Road. During the Tang Dynasty, Dunhuang was the main hub of commerce of the Silk Road and a major religious site. A large number of the caves were constructed at Mogao during this era, which have become a place of fascination for historians, scholars, artists and travellers alike.
Zhang Daqian too felt a strong yearning for the place, and after raising some funds, he left Sichuan for Dunhuang in 1941 with a retinue comprising of dozens of people including his family, students, nephews, lamas and painting friends. He studied 276 Dunhuang murals between 1941 and 1943, spending time to repair and copy the murals, and also exhibited his works in 1943.
In this painting, Zhang Daqian's inscription provides direct evidence that the Buddhist rendering was inspired from the Mogao grottoes. The Buddha Amitabha is seated on a lotus, symbolising purity, in the padmasana (lotus) posture, his upper bod y naked and lavishly adorned with gemmed necklaces, chest ornaments, bracelets and armlets. The lower body is wrapped in overlapping folds, while his hands are clasped in the namaskara (gesture of prayer) mudra, also known as the gesture for greetings, devotion, and adoration. The iconography of this piece corresponds to High Tang Dynasty paintings of the Buddha Amitabha of the Western Pure Land.
His gaze and posture expression bespeaks tranquility and dignity, and the overall painting embodies the beauty of subtle elegance, fully articulating Zhang Daqian's expertise in rendering delicate Buddhist portraits.