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Lot 41. A rare inscribed gilt-bronze figure of Avalokitesvara, Sui dynasty (581-618); 17cm (6 3/4in) high. (4). Sold for HKD 985,800 (Estimate HKD 600,000 - HKD 800,000)© Bonhams 2001-2022

The slender bodhisattva shown seated with both legs pendent and resting on a waisted lotus pedestal further raised on a faceted lotus throne centred by a cintamani, with a pearl held in the right hand, the left hand resting atop the knee in varada mudra, the face cast with a pensive expression below the high chignon secured with a foliate crown below a seated image of Amitabha Buddha, the head framed by an openwork mandorla with flame border attached to a tab projecting from the back of the head, the base inscribed with a fifteen-character inscription, stand and box.

ProvenanceAcquired in Asia, 1968 (by repute)
Christie's New York, 26 March 2010, lot 1299
A distinguished Asian private collection.

Note: The inscription may be translated, 'Disciple Ruen Ci respectfully made a sculpture of Guanyin (Guan Shi Yin) as an offering to the altar for eternal life'.

The present rare and exceptionally elegant figure encapsulates the classic Avalokitesvara image in the Sui dynasty including the sense of aristocratic countenance and serene meditative expression, with the slender yet fleshy face, long narrow eyes, sharply curved arched brows which form a harmonious line with the ridge of the nose, as well as the high chignon, gently swaying elongated columnar bodies that are adorned in elaborate robes and jewellery. See a closely related bronze figure of Maitreya of comparable size (16.5cm high), dated also to the Sui dynasty, in the Langen Collection, illustrated by U. Wiesner in Buddhisten Jainas Hindus, Köln, 2005, no.43. While the present figure is more elaborate in its decoration, the two share in common a very similar necklace, from which hangs a single jewel at the center of the chest, and long, jewelled sashes draping down the body and over the knees. See a comparable example but of a large size (30.5cm high) Sui dynasty standing gilt-bronze figure of Avalokitesvara in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art collection, illustrated in Chinese Art in Overseas Collections. Buddhist Sculpture, vol.II, Taipei, 1990, p.74, pl.69.

Of particular note are the similar florets which adorned the jewelled sashes on the present figure with the style developed from the Northern Qi and Northern Zhou period, see a Sui dynasty standing gilt-bronze figure of Avalokitesvara in the Guimet Museum collection, illustrated in Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue of Chinese Buddhist Statues in Overseas Collection, vol.4, Beijing, 2005, p.846. The elaborate details on the mandorla of the present lot with layers of lotus petals, openwork radiant beams connecting to the outer rim of flaming design are similar to a Sui dynasty Avalokitesvara (43.8cm high) holding a willow branch in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection, illustrated in ibid., p.782. It is extremely rare to see an Avalokitesvara with his right hand holding a pearl and his left in varada mudra in Sui dynasty imageries, compare with a Tang dynasty gilt-bronze seated figure of Ksitigarbha in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated in ibid., vol.5, p.966.

Bonhams. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, Hong Kong, 30 November 2022