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24 mars 2020

A superbly cast gilt-bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara, Ming Dynasty, 16th century

H0046-L21501654 (2)

H0046-L21501655 (3)

Lot 3048. A superbly cast gilt-bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara, Ming Dynasty, 16th century; 66 cm., 26 inEstimate 3,000,000 — 4,000,000 HKDLot Sold 6,020,000 HKD. Photo Sotheby's

finely cast seated with legs crossed and soles of the feet facing upwards in dhyanasana, with hands joined in uttarabodhimudra, wearing a long flowing robe with delicately incised hems falling in folds onto the base, the finely cast features of the face depicting a calm expression framed by long-lobed ears laden with heavy earrings, below the tightly curled hair encircled by a five-pointed crown, each point enclosing one of the Five Transcendental Buddhas, the ribbon from the crown trailing down both shoulders, all supported on a separate lotiform base, richly gilded overall.

ProvenanceSotheby's Hong Kong, 1st November 1994, lot 320.

NoteThe present figure is an outstanding example of Bodhisattva images cast during the middle Ming dynasty. The exquisite detailing of the incised robes and intricate casting of the crown provide evidence of the importance placed on this piece by its benefactor, as well as revealing the proficiency of bronze craftsmen with their medium. Compare closely related figures, but with slight variations in the crown and supported on a raised lotus pedestal, such as one sold twice in these rooms, 30th October 1991, lot 321, and again, 25th April 2004, lot 333; and another sold in our New York rooms, 26th March 1996, lot 7.

The design of the large blossoms extending from a slender lotus scroll that embellishes the edges of the robes of this figure is reminiscent of the blue and white porcelain decoration from the Hongwu, Yongle and Xuande reigns of the Ming dynasty, indicating the popularity of this motif at the time. While the bronze craftsmen may have been inspired be contemporary porcelain designs when conceiving the decorations of the robe, it is more likely that they were emulating the designs of popular silk or damask patterns frequently found on Ming textiles. For example, see a yellow-ground silk with a design of red lotus scrolls illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Textiles and Embroideries of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2005, pls 103, 104 and 133.

The form of Buddhism that became popular in China centred on the worship of bodhisattvas, enlightened beings who postpone their own escape from worldly existence in order to help others attain Enlightenment. Thus unlike Buddha figures, who wear simpler robes and short curls of hair, bodhisattvas are depicted in princely attire and decorated with elaborate clothing, jewellery and headpieces as seen in the present sculpture.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 08 april 2011