The Buddhas Prabhutaratna and Sakyamuni seated sided by side

The Buddhas Duobao (Prabhutaratna) and Sakyamuni seated side by side. In two pieces, with wood stand. Surface: gilded; earthy incrustations, and green patina on worn areas. Inscription on rear of base. (Gilt bronze)

Historical period(s)
Sui dynasty, dated 609
Medium
Gilt bronze
Dimensions
H x W x D: 21.8 x 14.1 x 5.5 cm (8 9/16 x 5 9/16 x 2 3/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1945.30
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Sculpture
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
abhaya mudra, Buddhism, casting, China, gilding, Prabhutaratna Buddha, Sui dynasty (581 - 618), varada mudra, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

From at least 1938
Mrs. Christian R. Holmes (1871-1941), New York and "The Chimneys," Sands Point, Port Washington, Long Island, from at least October 1938. [1]

From at least 1944 to 1945
Tonying and Company, New York from at least March 8, 1944. [2]

From 1945
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Tonying and Company, New York on May 24, 1945. [3]

Notes:

[1] Mrs. Holmes lent the sculpture to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1938, see Chinese Bronzes of the Shang (1766-1122 B. C.) through the T’ang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906) (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 19-November 27, 1938), cat. 275. See also A. G. Wenley’s letter to C. F. Yau, Tonying and Co., dated May 22, 1945, copy in object file, in which Wenley confirms acquisition of the sculpture and states that it came from Mrs. Christian R. Holmes’s collection.

[2] See “List of Objects Contemplated for Purchase by the Freer Gallery of Art,” approved by the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on March 8, 1944, copy in object file.

[3] See Tonying & Company’s invoice, dated May 24, 1945, in which the object figures under no. B. 58: “Gilt bronze Shrine / Six Dynasties,” copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Mrs. Christian R. Holmes 1871-1941
Tonying and Company established 1902

Description

The Buddhas Duobao (Prabhutaratna) and Sakyamuni seated side by side. In two pieces, with wood stand. Surface: gilded; earthy incrustations, and green patina on worn areas. Inscription on rear of base. (Gilt bronze)

Inscription(s)

1. (From original folder sheet note 2) (A.G.W., 1944) The inscription of 29 characters reads: [chn] which may be rendered, "The 26th day of the 10th moon of the 5th year of the Ta Yeh Emperor, (Nov. 28, A.D. 609), the devoted religious daughter Chang P'eng-lo has respectfully made for her Father and Mother one statuette of Hu-men-ho and To-pao.

The inscription is fairly clear except for the 25th character which is written [chn] and seems to be an abbreviation for [chn] to. Another curious thing about it are the 22nd, 23rd and 24th characters which also seem to be a Buddhist name, but the combination does not appear in any of the lists available to me. Iconographically, however, we seem to have here a representation referring to the [chn] Miao fa lien hua ching /Sddharma pundarika sutra/ or "The lotus of the wonderful law" traditionally said to contain the final teaching of Gautama Sakyamuni spoken toward the end of his life on the Vulture Peak in Nepal. In Chapter eleven of this sutra is told the story of how there appeared from the earth a stupa containing a former Buddha, Prabutaratna who extolled the teachings of Gautama and invited him to enter and sit beside him on his throne, which Gautama accordingly did. (See W.E. Soothill, The lotus of the wonderful law, pp. 162-163). Since we seem to have mentioned in the inscription the Chinese name for Prabutaratna, i.e., To-pao, it would seem to follow that the characters Hu-men-ho which precede it must be an attempt to express the name Gautama in dialect, -----or perhaps only the last character of the three ho refers to him, while the characters hu-men might refer to India, the country of the Buddha's origin and the Buddhist religion. The object was formerly in the collection of Mrs. Christian R. Holmes.

2. (From original folder sheet note 3) (Angela F. Howard, Rutgers University, June 1991)

The inscription is carved on the back of the dais:

[chn]

"Daye wunian shiyue ershiliuri gingxin shinu Zhang Pengle wei fumu jing zao Hu Menhe Duobao xiang yiqu" or "[Sui dynasty], daye era, fifth year (609 AD), tenth month, twenty-sixth day, the trusting female devotee Zhang Pengle for the sake of her parents had this image of Duobao [by the maker] Hu Menhe executed." The characters "Hu Menhe" are problematic because in similar inscriptions one finds in their place the characters for Skyamuni. I have translated them as if they were the name of the maker, but using the artisan's name is very uncommon. Because of this controversial name, A. Pontynen, "Philosophic Perennis Ars Orientalis, Oriental Art (Winter 1982/83): 359-367, has attempted unconvincingly (in my opinion) to demonstrate that this work is a Buddist-Daoist icon.

Published References
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Jacqueline I. Stone. Two Buddhas Seated Side by Side: A Guide to the Lotus Sūtra. Princeton, NJ, January 11, 2022. Cover.
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Jacqueline I. Stone. Two Buddhas Seated Side by Side: A Guide to the Lotus Sūtra. Cover.
  • Hugo Munsterberg. Chinese Buddhist Bronzes., 1st ed. Tokyo and Rutland, Vermont. pl. 35.
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Rebecca Bloom. Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism. Chicago, December 2017. p. 113, fig. 10.
  • Arthur Pontynen. Philosophia perennis ars orientalis: A Buddhist-Taoist Icon in the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 28, no. 4, Winter 1982-1982. pp. 359-367, figs. 1, 2.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.