Standing figure (torso) of a bodhisattva (pusa)

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty, early 8th century
Medium
Limestone with traces of pigment and gesso
Dimensions
H x W x D: 101.7 x 40.9 x 26.7 cm (40 1/16 x 16 1/8 x 10 1/2 in)
Geography
China, Shaanxi province, probably Xi'an
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1916.365
On View Location
Freer Gallery 17: Promise of Paradise: Ancient Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
Classification(s)
Sculpture, Stone
Type

Figure

Keywords
bodhisattva, Buddhism, China, Tang dynasty (618 - 907)
Provenance

To 1916
Dikran G. Kelekian (1868-1951), Cairo, Egypt, Paris, France, and New York to 1916 [1]

From 1916 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Dikran G. Kelekian, New York in 1916 [2]

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

Notes:

[1] See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 948, pg. 209, 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
Dikran Garabed Kelekian (C.L. Freer source) 1868-1951

Label

This image of a bodhisattva (enlightened being) draws attention to the fragmentary condition of many Buddhist sculptures that entered Western collections in the early twentieth century. With the head, arms, and double-lotus pedestal missing, the sculpture lacks the balanced proportion expected of an eighth-century statue. However, comparison of this torso with complete sculptures in situ in China confirms its authenticity as a work probably made in Chang'an, the capital city of the Tang dynasty (618-907). It is not known when the figure was damaged, but many sculptures incurred such losses when they were removed from China.

The style of this sculpture manifests an aesthetic sensibility prevalent in China during the eighth century. Indian imagery brought into China by traveling monks helped to stimulate new emphasis on a sensuous treatment of the human body, including a fleshy abdomen and thrusted hip. A clinging skirt, jeweled chains, and tendrils of hair  cascading onto the shoulders (now somewhat difficult to interpret without the figure's head) are elements familiar in Indian statuary that the Chinese refashioned into their own idiom. 

Published References
  • 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. 15.
  • Photogravure Section. Washington, July 29, 1934. .
  • Chugoku bijutsu [Chinese Art in Western Collections]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. vol. 3: pl. 62.
  • Capolavori nei secoli: Enciclopedia di tutte i popoli in tutti i tempi. 12 vols., Milan, 1961 - 1964. vol. 3: p. 46.
  • Laurence Sickman, Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. The Pelican History of Art London and Baltimore. pl. 59b.
  • 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. 377.
  • Osvald Siren. Kinas Konst Under Tre Artusenden. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1942-1943. vol. 2: p. 80, fig. 62.
  • untitled article. Washington, July 29, 1934. rotogravure section.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. .
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 81, vol. 1: p. 173.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. Freer Gallery of Art. Washington. p. 9.
  • et. al. Chinese Calligraphy. The Culture and Civilization of China New Haven and Beijing. p. 11, pl. 15.
  • Wen C. Fong. Art as History: Calligraphy and Painting as One. Princeton. pp. 37, 40, fig. 19.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 78-79.
  • Peter C. Swann. Art of China, Korea, and Japan. New York. p. 100, fig. 85.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 114, fig. 76.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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