Figure of Guanyin, porcelain with qingbai glaze, China, Yuan dynasty, 1279-1368. Height: 26.7 cm. C.30-1968 © V&A Images.
Porcelain figure of Guanyin seated in the pose of lalitasana, or 'royal ease', with the right elbow resting on the raised right knee while the left hand is extended on the knee of the left folded leg. Bare at the waist, with a long shawl draped and folded at the foot, over a garment with shaped half-sleeves covering the shoulder. Around her neck, an elaborate beaded necklace with jewels and three pendant rosettes; similar ornaments are on the lower garment. On the head the elaborately worked diadem has in the centre a lotus pedestal, formerly meant for an Amitabha figure now missing. Jewelled ear pendants and jewelled strings of beads descend to the shoulder, along with plaits of hair; bracelets adorn the wrists. Hollow figure with a vertical flat strut in the centre where the unglazed porcelain has a brownish orange or grey colour, the back of the body is plain. . The qingbai glaze has a marked tinge of greenish blue.
Bibliographic References: Ayers, John. Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum (2nd edition). London: Sotheby Park Bernet Publications, 1980, p. 167, pl. 37
taken from Register
Notes: Guanyin, which literally means 'she who listens to the sound', is one of the most popular Buddhist deities in China. Her figure originated in India as the male deity Avalokitesvara, bodhisattva of compassion; after the introduction of Buddhism in China, he was transformed into a female deity associated to motherly virtues of piety.
In this image, Guanyin is portrayed seated in the pose known as lalitasana, or 'royal ease'. Like other bodhisattvas, she wears jewellery on the head, torso and arms; on the head, the elaborately worked diadem has in the centre a lotus pedestal, formerly meant for an Amitabha figure now missing.
The figure can be compared to a group of Buddhist deities of larger size, among which is a Guanyin figure in the Nelson gallery of Kansas city that bears on its base an ink inscription incorporating the date of the 2nd or 3rd year of Dade (1298-1299 AD) (Ayers 1980: 167).
The figure was offered for sale at Christie's on 20 May 1968 (lot 124), but withdrawn.