Stylistic features of this exquisite six-armed figure of Avalokitesvara conform to those of a group of gilt-bronze images of seated bodhisattvas known from the Liao dynasty. Comparable Liao bodhisattvas are in the British Museum, the Shanghai Museum, the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, and the Rjikesmuseum, Amsterdam. See W. Zwalf, ed., Buddhism, Art and Faith, London, 1985, no. 294; d'Argencé, Treasures from the Shanghai Museum: 6,000 Years of Chinese Art, Shanghai and San Francisco, 1983, no. 21; The Museum of East Asian Art, Inaugural Exhibition, vol. 2, Bath, 1993, no. 277; and Hai-wai yi-zhen: Chinese Art in Overseas Collections - Buddhist Sculpture, The National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1990, nos. 146 and 158, respectively. In the entry for the British Museum figure, the author refers to stylistically comparable seated clay bodhisattvas within the Bojiajiao library hall, constructed in 1308 at the Lower Huayan temple, Datong, Shanxi province, once the western capital of the Khitan Liao dynasty, Buddhism, Art and Faith, p. 204.
The present figure differs, however, from the before-mentioned examples in bearing multiple arms. As is the case with lot 77 in this sale, these multiple arms, with hands either positioned in mudra or grasing attributes, are meant to convey a sense of awe-inspiring power and capacity for salvation. Here, however, the emphasis is on specific mudra and attributes. While the specific meaning of the covered jar in the figure's upper right hand is unclear, the conch shell, held in the upper left held, was a popular attribute, and symbolized the sound and dissemination of the Buddhist Law.