Previously sold at Sotheby's New York, 28 November 1994, lot 199.
The present figure is unusually large in size. It is extremely rare to find Buddhist gilt-metal images seated in what is known as 'European posture', pralambapadasana, with both legs pendant resting on the ground as many are cast in a posture of vajrasana, seated with legs crossed. Commonly associated with the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the pralambapadasana posture, was thought to have been transferred to China from Gandhara in the 1st Century. The posture is found among Tang dynasty stone sculptures in Yungang, and two examples are illustrated in Hai-wai Yi-chen, Chinese Art in Overseas Collections, Buddhist Sculpture II, nos. 102 and 103, in the Art Institute of Chicago collection and the Honolulu Academy of Arts respectively. A gilt-bronze figure of Maitreya seated in the same posture was sold in these Rooms, Visions of the Buddhist Paradise, 26 April 1998, lot 601. By the Ming dynasty, this posture was rarely adopted until its re-emergence in the early Qing period.
Compare the present figure with a closely related Maitreya dated to 18th Century, formerly from Collection G, Paris, and sold at Hotel Drouot, 21-24 November 1904. This figure is illustrated by U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p. 543, no. 153D; seated on a similar plinth and embellished with semi-precious hardstones in the same style as the present figure. The addition of hardstones such as pearls, carnelian and malachite as decorative embellishments for Buddhist gilt-metal images was popular throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. This is a revival of a Tibetan technique that was employed in the Ming dynasty 14th and 15th Centuries. A closely related hardstone inset example is a Kangxi period gilt-bronze figure of Sadaksari included in the exhibition, Kangxi Empereur de Chine, La Cité interdite à Versailles, Paris, 2004, illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 228, no. 8. dated to 1686.
It is known that the Emperor Kangxi was an ardent advocate of Lamaist Buddhism, and a number of workshops were established during the latter part his reign to supply images for the Palace temples. As in the early Ming period, many artisans employed at the workshops were Tibetan, Mongolian and Nepalese, and as such, many Buddhist images display a complex combination of differing influences. The present figure with its additional inset niche [fig. 1] which included an image of Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Gelugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, is an indication of its strong Tibetan connection.
The unusual face of the present figure with the rendition of thin eye lids and a sharply outlined upper lip, is comparable to images dated to the early part of the Qianlong reign, such as the figure of Avalokitesvara and another of Manjusri, both dated to 1749 and illustrated in Treasures of Imperial Court The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 2004, pp. 208-209, nos. 185 and 186.