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Figure of Wei Mo Chi from the Longmen Grottoes

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 1

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At A Glance

On View
  • Period

    ca. 520
  • Geography

    Longmen Cave Temples, Cave 140 (Middle Bingyang Cave), east wall, Luoyang, Henan province, China
  • Material

  • Dimension

    H x W x D (overall): 170.5 x 141.4 x 16.4 cm (67 1/8 x 55 11/16 x 6 7/16 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Provenance

    To no later than 1936
    Originally located in Longmen Cave Temples, Cave 140 (Middle Binyang Cave), east wall, southeast corner, Luoyang, Henan province, China [1]
    By 1939 to 1943
    Otto Burchard (1892-1965), Beijing, reportedly purchased from 3 Chinese dealers in Beijing before June 1939 [2]
    1943 to 1944
    United State of America, Office of Alien Property Custodian, formally vested the sculpture on September 2, 1943 [3]
    Sale, New York, Alien Property Custodian Public Sale, July 20, 1944, lot 53: “A sculpture described as a Chinese Stone Relief from Lung Men, China – 6’ x 7’ – representing seated figure of Vimalakirti” [4]
    1945 to 1982
    Mr. Myron S. Falk Jr. (1906-1992) and Mrs. Pauline Baerwald Falk (1910–2000), New York, purchased at Alien Property Custodian Sale in 1944 [5]
    From 2001
    Freer Gallery of Art, bequest of Mr. Myron S. Falk Jr. and Mrs. Pauline Baerwald Falk in 2001 [6]
    [1] The Vimalakirti was documented in situ in a black and white photograph published in 1920 by Friedrich Perzynski, a German expeditionary, author, collector and dealer who travelled to China to visit Buddhists cave temples in 1912/1913.
    See Friedrich Perzynski, "Von Chinas Göttern: Reisen in China" (Munich, Kurt Wolff Verlag, 1920), pl. 27, opposite p. 104.
    Tokiwa Daijo, a pioneering Japanese scholar of Chinese Buddhist history and his collaborator Sekino Tadashi surveyed Buddhist monuments in China in seven expeditions between 1906 and 1925, which resulted in the multivolume publication "Shina bukkyo shiseki hyokai," issued between 1925 and 1931 (English edition issued in 1926-1938).
    In volume II of the publication, Daijo provided a textual reference to the Vimalakirti sculpture.
    The subsequent study by the two authors, entitled "Shina bunka shiseki," published in 1939-1940, contained a black and white photograph of the Vimalakirti in its original location.
    See Tokiwa Daijo, "Chugoku bunka shiseki" vol. II (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1975-76, reprint), pl. 13.
    In their study of the Longmen temples published in 1941, Mizuno Seiichi and Naghiro Toshio noted extensive damage to the Binyang cave, which occurred in 1935.
    By the time of their visit to the site in April 1936, the Vimalakirti sculpture had been removed, and the authors were able to reproduce it only in a reconstructive line drawing, see Mizuno Seiichi and Naghiro Toshio, "Kanan Rakuyo Ryuumon sekkutsu no kenkyu" (Tokyo: Zauho kankokai, 1941), fig. 18.
    [2] According to an account provided by Mathias Komor, Otto Burchard acquired the Vimalakirti from three Chinese dealers who had recently arrived in Beijing and brought with them the fragmented sculpture.
    The transaction took place in Komor’s house located in the Beijing Legation Quarter in the late 1930s.
    M. Komor to Pauline B. Falk, May 5, 1984, in object file.
    In the late 1920s and then from 1932 to 1946, Burchard resided in Beijing, where he established a reputation as a well-connected art dealer.
    Burchard, who had a close relationship with Laurence Sickman of the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, shipped the sculpture to Kansas for the museum’s acquisition consideration around June of 1939, see letter from Laurence Sickman to Mr. Nichols, June 9, 1939, copy in object file.
    [3] While the object was in the care of the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City (see note 2), the Office of Alien Property Custodian vested the property of Otto Burchard, a German national by Vesting Order no. 2248, issued on September 22, 1943, copy in object file. In 1955, the United States Office of Alien Property, Department of Justice, determined that Burchard was
    “entitled to the return of certain property vested by the Alien Property Custodian pursuant to the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act,” see letter from Department of Justice, Office of Alien Property to William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, May 13, 1955, claim no. 32194, copy in object file. See also, “Annual Report, 1955, Office of Alien Property,” Exhibit D, no. 2248. The report states that Dr. Otto Burchard received $2,124.41 for the vesting of 2248 and that payment was issued to Dr. Burchard on April 29, 1955, copy in object file.
    [4] The object was part of a sale on June 14, 1944; see Notice of Sale, issued by James E. Markham, Alien Property Custodian on June 14, 1944.
    The confiscated property was offered for a public sale and an invitation for sealed bids was issued in Notice of Sale cited above.
    A detailed inventory of properties offered for sale provided a description of the Vimalakirti sculpture under lot 53, in records of the Office of Alien Property, Record group 131, National Archives, College Park, MD, copy in object file.
    See also advertisement of the sale in New York Times (June 18, 1944), p. 34, copy in object file.
    [5] See receipt issued to Myron S. Falk, Jr. and letter from H.D. Weiser, Supervisor Liquidation Section, Alien Property Custodian to Myron S. Falk, Jr., August 14, 1944.
    See also Bill of Sale, dated September 25, 1944, copies in object file.
    The sculpture was shipped from the Nelson Atkins Museum to New York in September 1944.
    After it had been restored in New York, it was lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and displayed there from August 28, 1945 to October 1946.
    [6] The Freer Gallery of Art received the bequest on June 28, 2001 from the executors of Pauline B. Falk’s estate, see signed receipt and release document, copy in object file.
  • Collection

    Freer Gallery of Art Collection
  • Exhibition History

    Promise of Paradise (October 14, 2017 - ongoing)
    Freer Gallery of Art, South Entrance, 2002 - 2016 (March 4, 2002 to January 3, 2016)
    Untitled Exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1945-1946 (August 1945 to 1946)
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Dr. Otto C. Burchard (1892-1965)
    Office of Alien Property Custodian (1917-1942)
    Myron S. Falk, Jr. (1906-1992)
    Pauline Baerwald Falk (1910-2000)
  • Origin

    Longmen Cave Temples, Cave 140 (Middle Bingyang Cave), east wall, Luoyang, Henan province, China
  • Credit Line

    Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Myron S. Falk, Jr.
  • Type

  • On View

    Freer Gallery 17: Promise of Paradise
  • Restrictions and Rights

    Usage Conditions Apply

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