Historical Buddha

Historical period(s)
Sui dynasty or early Tang dynasty, late 6th-early 7th century
Hemp cloth, lacquer, wood, metal wire, and glass with traces of pigment and gilding
H x W x D: 99.5 x 72.5 x 56.7 cm (39 3/16 x 28 9/16 x 22 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Lacquer, Sculpture

Buddhist sculpture

Buddhism, China, Gautama Buddha, Sui dynasty (581 - 618), WWII-era provenance

To 1944
Ellis Monroe, New York. [1]

From 1944
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Ellis Monroe, New York. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record. Also see correspondences between Jan W.A. Kleijkamp, Ellis Monroe, and A.G. Wenley in the object file, Collections Management Office. In a letter dated June 3, 1944 written by Jan W.A. Kleijkamp to the director, A.G. Wenley states: ““The Pitcairn collection” was, as you know, a joint venture of Mr. Monroe and myself. As Mr. Monroe is handling the finances in regard to our venture, he will send a bill”…, copy of letter in the object file.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Ellis Monroe


The aloof grace and lean proportions of this image of the historical Buddha are typical of sixth-century Chinese sculpture. The naturalistic drapery and hints of anatomical modeling, however, suggest a date closer to the seventh century. Layers of lacquer-impregnated fabric were draped over a clay core and covered with a lacquer-based paste that was modeled to create the details. After the lacquer dried, the clay core was removed, leaving a lightweight, durable shell that was painted and embellished with gold. This technique of work is called "dry lacquer."

Published References
  • Chugoku bijutsu [Chinese Art in Western Collections]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. vol. 3: pl. 76.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 83, vol. 1: p. 173.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 7.
  • Alexander Coburn Soper. Literary Evidence for Early Buddhist Art in China. vol. 9 Washington and Zurich. pp. 19-21.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 43.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 44-45.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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