Chinese Buddhist Wood Sculpture - Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) at royal ease 

Ming Dynasty 明 (1368-1644)

Wood with gesso and colored pigments

Height: 47 inches

Provenance: Private New York Estate

Sotheby’s Parke Bernet, New York

(By repute the John L. Marion Collection, New York)




The deity seated on rockwork, the raised left foot resting on a single lotus bud rising from the rockwork and her left hand resting on her raised left knee, the robes are executed in a low relief gesso with floral borders and the elaborate five-tiered tiara is rendered with great detail and centered by Amidha Buddha, the back with a covered rectangular opening.


A stylistically similar Avalokitesvara flanked by two further Bodhisattvas, all with very similar face and crown treatment, dated to the 15th century is illustrated in Homage to Heaven, Homage to Earth, Chinese Treasures of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 1992, pp.184-185, no. 108. The authors note that the impasto patterning of the robe edges points to a Ming design, though it did appear earlier. The five pointed crowns and elaborate chainwork (jewelery) on the chests show the influence on Chinese work, from at least Yuan times, of the Lamaist style, a reminder that many of China’s later emperors espoused Tibetan Buddhism, sentiments applicable to the present example as well.

Another Bodhisattva dated 14-15th century and seated in a very similar pose and with similar robes, but seated on a qilin, was offered at Christie’s, New York, 24 March 2004, lot 116; and a stylistically similar bust of the same date was offered at Christie’s, London, 5 December 1994, lot 304.


For an earlier gilt bronze image of Guanyin dated to the 14-15th century, in which the lower half bears some resemblance, particularly in the treatment of the unusually bowed legs and drapery, see A Special Exhibition of Recently Acquired Gilt-Bronze Buddhist Images, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1996, pp. 84-85, no. 24.