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Buddha

  • Object:

    Figure of buddha

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    550-577 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Limestone, with traces of gesso, paint and gilding

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with help from Art Fund and private donors

  • Museum number:

    A.4-1924

  • Gallery location:

    Buddhism, Room 47f, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art, case PL8

The simple clothing worn by this Buddha echoes the modest robes worn by the historical Buddha when he reached enlightenment after an intense period of meditation. Behind the figure is an ornate halo or aureole, decorated with flowers and an inner ring of lotus petals. The symmetrical composition of the sculpture intensifies the calmness reflected in the Buddha's face. Traces of red, black and green pigment on the head hint at the brightly coloured surface of the figure in earlier times.

Physical description

Seated Buddha carved in dark grey limestone with traces of red and green pigment. The Buddha has a serene face, closed mouth, and a flat back. His thumbs have broken off. He has a large halo decorated with flora and an inner ring of lotus petals. The folds of the Buddha's robes are inlaid into the stone. He is sitting on a rectangular slab, integral to the sculpture. The Buddha has one hand raised in a gesture of fearlessness (abhaya mudra) and one palm open in a gesture of gift giving (verada mudra).

Place of Origin

China (made)

Date

550-577 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Limestone, with traces of gesso, paint and gilding

Dimensions

Height: 119 cm, Width: 58 cm, Depth: 30 cm, Weight: 290 kg

Object history note

This figure has traces of paint, gesso and gilt. Most sculpture in ancient China is coloured, and it is said that, although much of the techniques have not been handed down, 30 per cent of the work on a sculpture was devoted to carving, and 70 per cent to painting.

This object is included in the Xiangtangshan project, an international initiative based at the University of Chicago (2006) which aims to build up a digital reconstruction of this Northern Qi cave complex. See http://xts.uchicago.edu/introduction/ However, it is not certain that this object did once form part of these caves. Some argue that it is a later piece.

Descriptive line

Seated Buddha, limestone, with traces of gesso, paint and gilding, North China, possibly 550-577 (Northern Qi dynasty).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ashton, 'A Chinese statue in the V&A Museum' Burlington Magazine, XLV, 1924, p.72

Siren, O. 'Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century', 1925, # 285

Clarke, John: Arts of Asia, vol. 45, no. 5, September - October 2015, "The Buddha image in Asia: Phase One of the Robert H. N.Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art", p.115, pl. 4.
O. Siren, Chinese Sculpture (7 Vols), 1925, p.77; Plate 285.
Orientations; vol. 40. no. 4; May 2009; The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum.
Lukas Nickel; Faith and Beauty. Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, p. 52
Orientations; vol. 40. no. 4; May 2009; The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum.
Lukas Nickel; Faith and Beauty. Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, p. 52

Labels and date

Seated Buddha
550–77
Probably Northern Qi dynasty
Xiangtangshan, Hebei, China
Limestone with traces of gesso, paint and gilding
The Buddha’s halo is formed of concentric bands
of stylised lotus petals and powerful floral scroll,
separated by rings. This halo design, together with
the distinctive drapery that extends over the pedestal,
suggests that the figure comes from a cave-temple
complex at Xiangtangshan, south of Beijing. Traces
of pigment on the head show that it was originally
brightly coloured.
Purchased with help from The Art Fund and private donors
Museum no. A.4-1924 [1/4/2009]
Buddha Shakyamuni
AD 550–577
Northern Qi dynasty
This Buddha has an ornate halo decorated with flowers
and an inner ring of lotus petals. Traces of paint show that
the figure was once brightly coloured. The style of the
decoration and drapery suggests that the figure probably
came from the cave temple complex at Xiangtangshan
in northern China. These features, together with the
delicately carved, rounded face, show a masterful Chinese
interpretation of the Indian Gupta dynasty style.
Possibly from Xiangtangshan, Hebei Province, North China
Limestone with traces of gesso, paint and gilding
Purchased with help from the Art Fund and private donors
Museum no. A.4-1924
北齐 描金加彩石佛坐像
(原置河北响堂山) [03/08/2015]

Production Note

Katherine Tsiang Mino of the University of Chicago (2007) has expressed the view that this object is of Northern Qi date (550-577 AD) and that its original site was North Xiangtangshan, North Cave.

Others have assigned a later date, but Dr Mino's research into the Xiangtangshan caves was followed when describing the sculpture for the Ho Family Foundation Gallery, 2009.

Materials

Limestone

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Lotus petal

Categories

Sculpture; Buddhism

Production Type

Unique

Collection

East Asia Collection

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