Guanyin thumbnail 1
Guanyin thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
China, Room 47e, The T.T. Tsui Gallery

This object consists of 5 parts, some of which may be located elsewhere.

Guanyin

Figure of Bodhisattva
ca. 1200 - 1300 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This figure is one of the most popular figures of worship in Buddhism – the Bodhisattva Guanyin, called Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit. As the deity of compassion, Guanyin was usually shown from the 10th century onwards as a female figure. Earlier, like all other bodhisattvas, Guanyin was depicted in male form. When this sculpture arrived at the museum, it contained a lacquer box with offerings of silks, gauze, grain and a bronze mirror. These confirm that the figure was once worshipped in a temple.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 5 parts.

  • Figure of Guanyin
  • Offerings
  • Tiered Box
  • Tier
  • Lid
Materials and Techniques
Carved wood, painted and gilt surface
Brief Description
Wooden figure of the Bodhisattva Guanyin, Sculpture, China, ca. 1200 - 1300.
Physical Description
Figure of the Bodhisattva Guanyin; shown seated on a gnarled tree trunk with his right arm resting on his raised right leg, his left leg hanging down resting on a lotus stall, and his left arm placed palm down on the tree trunk. His hands are missing. A red dot is carved into the centre of the forehead. In addition to the elaborate robe is a crown within which is placed an image of Buddha. Tassles hang down his left knee. His robe is creased, and open, revealing the right side of his chest. The fluidity of the robes is conveyed with skillful artistry. White paint is visible on the surface, and pigments of red, black and gold are visible.



The gold painted onto this wooden sculpture still shimmers brilliantly, highlighting the intricate carving used to decorate the Bodhisattva's headdress and necklace. The large dot between his eyebrows, long earlobes, and headdress are all signs of the figures high standing and spiritual advancement. The footstool is decorated with a lotus motif, which is highly symbolic of purity, and, in the way that a clear white lotus rises from a muddy pond, represents the ability to rise beyond earthly desires. As a lotus is being used as a footstool here, it confirms the advanced spiritual state of the Bodhisattva.
Dimensions
  • Approx height: 78cm
  • Approx width: 61cm
  • Approx depth: 30cm
Currently in case
Gallery Label
The Bodhisattva Guanyin About 1200-1300 China These three sculptures show one of the most popular figures of worship in Buddhism - the Bodhisattva Guanyin, called Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit. As the deity of compassion, Guanyin was usually shown from the 10th century onwards as a female figure. Earlier, like all other bodhisattvas, Guanyin was depicted in male form. The gender of these three is ambiguous. When this sculpture arrived at the museum, it contained a lacquer box with offerings of silks, gauze, grain and a bronze mirror. These confirm that the figure was once worshipped in a temple. Wood with painted and gilded surface From the Eumorfopoulos collection Museum no. A.68-1937 Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund, the Vallentin Bequest, Sir Percival David and the Universities China Committee(30/04/2007)
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support, the Vallentin Bequest, Sir Percival David and the Universities China Committee
Object history
When the figure arrived at the museum. offerings, and evidence of repairs executed in 1374 and 1417, were found inside it. According to the registered file RP/1935/199 this came with A.68/A-1937, a lacquer box.

Eumorfopoulos Collection



This object came from the collections of George Eumorfopoulos (1863-1939), the son of a Greek merchant. George entered the firm of Ralli Brothers, merchants, of London, of which for a time he was representative in south Russia; he rose eventually to be vice-president and retired in 1934.



Soon after his marriage in 1890, Eumorfopoulos started collecting, moving from European porcelain to an interest in Chinese. It was a time when knowledge of Chinese art in the West was about to expand rapidly: archaeology and railway construction in north China cut into tombs richly furnished with pottery figures and vessels of the first to the tenth century. In his preface to the first of the six volumes of R. L. Hobson's monumental catalogue of his Chinese and other Eastern ceramics (1925-8), Eumorfopoulos recorded that it was in 1906 that he saw the first specimens of tomb wares: 'First came the Han, then the Tang (figures of horses and camels first in 1910), and lastly the Wei' (Hobson, The George Eumorfopoulos Collection, vii). His collection grew rapidly until it became remarkably representative of the ceramics of the Song and earlier periods. Eumorfopoulos then launched out into the field of Chinese archaic bronzes and jades, and eventually of sculpture and paintings as well, until his collection became the greatest of his time. Eumorfopoulos had intended to bequeath his collection to the nation, but in 1934 he found it necessary to realize a part. Accordingly, he offered the national museums all that they required of the Chinese section for £100,000, a sum estimated at the time to be well under half the market value. The money was found, and a division between the British and Victoria and Albert museums was made on a basis of three to two.



After the sale of 1934, Eumorfopoulos still continued to buy Chinese antiquities; his taste was wide, however, ranging from Islamic and medieval art to modern European painting and sculpture. The vitality of his judgement is shown in the remarkable examples of contemporary work which he acquired, largely through his patronage of young artists, in particular sculptors: he owned paintings by Matisse and sculptures by Barbara Hepworth. He also supported archaeological studies and was one of the founders of the Oriental Ceramic Society and its first president from 1921 until his death at 7 Chelsea Embankment on 19 December 1939. His remaining collections were sold at auction by Sothebys from 28 to 31 May and on 5 and 6 June 1940 and, after his widow's death, in 1944. His collection is represented in the major national collections of Chinese art.



Information taken from Basil Gray, rev. M. Tregear, DNB website.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This figure is one of the most popular figures of worship in Buddhism – the Bodhisattva Guanyin, called Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit. As the deity of compassion, Guanyin was usually shown from the 10th century onwards as a female figure. Earlier, like all other bodhisattvas, Guanyin was depicted in male form. When this sculpture arrived at the museum, it contained a lacquer box with offerings of silks, gauze, grain and a bronze mirror. These confirm that the figure was once worshipped in a temple.
Bibliographic Reference
The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 68, No.358 (May 1936), pp.220-31.
Collection
Accession Number
A.68-1937

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record createdJune 12, 2000
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