Fragment of Guanyin of Eleven Heads

In relief, within a recess; lower part, from knees downward, missing, and minor injuries.
Limestone; gray, with gray-brown patina.

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty, 703
Medium
Limestone
Dimensions
H x W x D: 77.8 x 31.5 x 18.8 cm (30 5/8 x 12 3/8 x 7 3/8 in)
Geography
China, Shaanxi Province, Xi'an, Qibaotai Pagoda, Guangzhai Temple
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1914.55
On View Location
Freer Gallery 17: Promise of Paradise: Ancient Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
Classification(s)
Sculpture, Stone
Type

Figure

Keywords
Buddhism, China, Guanyin, mandorla, Tang dynasty (618 - 907), Vajrayana Buddhism
Provenance

To 1914
Edgar Worch (1880-1972), New York to 1914 [1]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Edgar Worch in 1914 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]

Notes:

[1] See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 521, pg. 149, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Edgar Worch (C.L. Freer source) 1880-1972

Description

In relief, within a recess; lower part, from knees downward, missing, and minor injuries.
Limestone; gray, with gray-brown patina.

Label

Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhism employs rituals and magic spells and many of the deities are depicted in a multiheaded and multiarmed guise. This form of Buddhism was popular in China during the Tang dynasty, when this image of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, was made under imperial patronage.  Eleven heads represent the stages of enlightenment.

The sensuous sculptural style reflects artistic exhange between China and India. This sculpture originally adorned the Seven Jewels Pagoda that was built in the Tang dynasty capital, Chang'an (modern day Xi'an). This sculpture is one of several similar images that adorned the Pagoda. Another related image from the Seven Jewels Pagoda is also in the Freer Gallery of Art (see F1909.98)

Published References
  • Samuel C. Morse. The Formation of the Plain-wood Style and the Developement of Buddhist Sculpture: 760-840
    . Ann Arbor. fig. 77.
  • Chuan-ying Yen. The Tower of Seven Jewels and Empress Wu. vol. 22, no. 1 Taipei, March/April 1987. .
  • Laurence Sickman, Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. The Pelican History of Art London and Baltimore. pl. 56b.
  • Sadajiro Yamanaka. To-so seikwa [Selected Relics of T'ang and Sung Dynasties from Collections in Europe and America]. Osaka, 1928-1929. vol. 2, pl. 17b.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century: Over 900 Specimens in Stone, Bronze, Lacquer and Wood, Principally from Northern China. 4 vols., London. vol. 3: pl. 391a.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 80-81.
  • William Willetts. Foundations of Chinese Art from Neolithic Pottery to Modern Architecture. New York, 1965. p. 221, fig. 138.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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