Northern Qi – Sui Dynasty,
2nd Half of the 6th Century
Height: 112 cm
Weisbrod Chinese Art, Ltd., New York 1998
Private Collector, Toronto, Canada, 1998
Kenneth Bendavid Collection, 2000
Important North American Collector, 2007
The elegant Bodhisattva stands erect with one hip flexed outward, the right hand raised holding a lotus bud, and the left hand sitting on the hip holding a red heart-shaped pouch. Hair is pulled up and tied in a top knot surrounded by a short petalled crown, having a florette in the hair, front center, below the rim of the crown.
Two short strands of fabric hang from the rim of the crown onto the shoulders, in front. A long beaded necklace hangs from the neck down the front of the torso to the lower abdomen where the necklace crosses within a flower and continues again down to the knees wrapping around the figure circling up on both sides again crossing within a floral head and continuing up under the shawl and onto the shoulders and neck emerging in front.
An open shawl wraps around the shoulders and upper back hanging open in front, exposing the jewellery on the upper chest, ending in a loose knot just above the central frontal florette, typical of Northern Qi Bodhisattvas. Long thin sashes fall from the forearm and elbows to the lotus petal base below.
A simple under-skirt hangs to the feet, over which there is a long pleated garment tied around the narrow waist, hanging over the flaring hips and falling down the legs ending half calf in stylized pleats and folds. On the back the garment is also pleated and there is a long sash tied in a bow at half calf. The grey limestone figure is carved in soft rounded volume with a long oval head having beautiful features dispersed evenly over the head and depicted with a serene expression.
Crescent eyes beneath arched brows, above a small nose and a benign smile, all framed by long pendulous earlobes hanging below the chin on the neck. The stone of dark grey colour bears traces of gold, white and ochre layers, with extensive red and turquoise blue pigment remaining.
This Limestone Bodhisattva bears facial features of fine definition, carved in a personal portrait style, most likely in the image of a donor, or possibly as a memorial, and therefore the figure was rendered sensitively and with great attention to detail, a superior quality than most others of this genre. Limestone figures of this sensitive quality are well known in museum collections.
See the Limestone Head of Bodhisattva, Northern Qi period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, acquired in 1914 (published online). Two Stone Heads purportedly from Xiantang Mountain Grottoes are also in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, both from the Northern Qi Dynasty (published online).
An Eastern Wei Bodhisattva from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has what may be the precursor of this face. The face is of narrow elongated shape and with similar placement of the features including high arched eyebrows, small mouth and long finely shaped nose.
A taller fine Standing Limestone Buddha, Northern Qi Dynasty, previously published in 1978 by Eskenazi, Limited, London, front cover, displays similar fine facial features, including the long nose line, morphing into the high arched eyebrows. It bears the same shaped eyes. and is carved from very similar dark grey stone. See number 50, Catalogue of Fabulous Buddhist Sculptures, Beijing, 1994.
For a slightly later example of this finely carved type of Buddhist Sculpture see the Standing Bodhisattva, Sui Dynasty, in the Rietberg Museum, Zurich, number 256, Catalogue of Fabulous Buddhist Sculptures, Beijing, 1994 .
A Sui Dynasty Gilt Bronze Seated Bodhisattva from the Nitta Collection, has an oval face with highly arched eyebrows, similar long ears and a similarly proportioned crown with a florette in front center, number 276, Catalogue of Fabulous Buddhist Sculptures, Beijing, 1994.
A monumental Standing Sandstone Bodhisattva stands approximately 20 feet tall and is from the Northern Qi Dynasty, having a similar frontal body shape with thin waist and flared hips, adorned with very ornate jewellery arranged in a similar fashion. This is thought to have been made between 550-560.