Wood figures dating to the Tang dynasty are extremely rare. Of the few recorded examples, this exceptional figure appears to be one of only four known which depict Buddhist deities. Two of these four wood figures represent the Eleven-headed Guanyin, and include one dated to the late seventh century in the Cleveland Museum of Art, illustrated by D. Jenkins, Masterworks in Wood: China and Japan, Portland Art Museum, 1976, p. 39, no. 9; the other is illustrated by R. Ghose, In The Footsteps of the Buddha, The University of Hong Kong, 1998, no. 78. The fourth wood figure, which is missing its head and arms, is a figure of a bodhisattva in the Berlin Museum illustrated in Fujiao Diaosu Mingpin Tulu, Beijing, 1997, p. 360, no. 340.
The other few wood figures known dating to the Tang period more often appear to follow painted pottery models, and generally depict court ladies. See, for example, two painted wood female figures of this type included in the exhibition, Ancient Chinese Sculptural Treasures: Carvings in Wood, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, June 1998, nos. 38 and 40; the examples included in the exhibition, Ancient Chinese Sculpture from the Alsdorf Collection and Others, Eskenazi, London, 12 June - 6 July 1990, nos. 6-10; and Arts of Ancient China, J.J. Lally & Co., New York, 31 May - 23 June 1990, nos. 14-18. See, also, the figure of this type sold in these rooms, 16 September 1999, lot 3.
The results of a radiocarbon analysis is consistent with the dating of this lot.