The four-armed Avalokitesvara is known as the Bodhisattva of Infinite Mercy.
This image belongs to a group of Buddhist figures made in China in the first half of the fifteenth century that displays a style influenced by the art of Tibet. In the preceding century, under the Yuan Dynasty, the authority of Mongol rulers had become closely associated with Tibetan Buddhist, or Lamaist, rituals. A tradition of Lamaist art was established in China and continued to be seen in works of art such as the present example. Missions to Tibet during the early part of the Ming Dynasty sought to maintain good relations with the Tibetan Lamas. It was recorded that in 1407, the emperor Yongle invited Halima (the fifth Tibetan hierach) to officiate a ceremony dedicated to the Emperor's deceased parents. Images such as the present lot appear to have been made as gifts that were exchanged on such visits.
Three closely related figures have been sold at auction, the first at Sotheby's, New York, 26 March 1996, lot 6; the others sold in our Hong Kong Rooms, 26 April 1998, lot 611, and 30 May 2005, lot 1245. Three other very similar examples are published, one formerly from the Berti Aschmann Collection, included in the Museum Rietberg exhibition, On the Path to Enlightenment, Zürich, 1995, and illustrated by Uhlig, Catalogue, no. 53; a smaller figure in the Chang Foundation, illustrated in the exhbition catalogue Buddhist Images in Gilt Metal, no. 30; and the figure illustrated by Von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, pl. 521, no. 146E.