Standing figure of a bodhisattva

Historical period(s)
Northern Wei dynasty, ca. 523
Medium
Sandstone with traces of pigment
Dimensions
H x W x D (overall): 104.1 x 47.4 x 27.2 cm (41 x 18 11/16 x 10 11/16 in)
Geography
China, Henan province, Gongxian Cave Temples, Cave 1
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1952.15
On View Location
Freer Gallery 17: Promise of Paradise: Ancient Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
Classification(s)
Sculpture, Stone
Type

Figure

Keywords
bodhisattva, Buddhism, China, lotus, Northern Wei dynasty (386 - 534), WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Originally located in Gongxian Cave 1, niche 1, Henan province, China [1]

Ca. 1914
Friedrich Perzynski (1877-1965) [2]

Ca. 1929
Paul Kempner (1889-1956), Berlin, from at least January 1929 [3]

To 1944
Edgar Worch (1880-1972), New York to February 1944 [4]

1944 to 1948
C. T. Loo & Company, New York purchased from Edgar Worch in February 1944 [5]

1948 to 1952
C. T. Loo, INC. New York, NY, by transfer from C. T. Loo & Company, NY [6]

From 1952
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo, INC. on June 25, 1952 [7]

Notes:

[1] The original location of the sculpture in the Gongxian cave was confirmed by Stanley Abe in 2001. The measurements and details of the sculpture correspond to a blank area to the right of a seated Buddha sculpture in Cave 1, niche 1; the mirror image of the Freer sculpture is still in place to the left of the Buddha, see Jan Stuart and Chang Qing, "Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in a New Light at the Freer Gallery of Art," Orientations 34, 4 (April 2002), pp. 29 (ill.), 30-31.

[2] According to annotations on C. T. Loo's stockcard no. NLP-44/908 cited in note 4, the statue was brought to Berlin by Friedrich Perzynski, a German expeditionist, collector, dealer, and writer, in or about 1914.

[3] The sculpture was lent by Paul Kempner to an exhibition in Berlin in 1929, see Ausstellung chinesischer Kunst, exh. cat. (Berlin: Gesellschaft für Ostasiatische Kunst; Preussische Akademie der Künste, January 12 to April 2, 1929), cat. no. 242. The object was also included in Otto Kümmel's 1930 publication occasioned by the Berlin exhibition and was listed there as in Kempner's collection, see Otto Kümmel, ed., Chinesische Kunst: Zweihundert Hauptwerke der Ausstellung der Gesellschaft für Ostasiatische Kunst in der Preussischen Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1929 (Berlin: B. Cassirer, 1930), pl. 66.

[4] See C. T . Loo & Company’s stock card no. NLP-44/908: "Stone Stupa revêtement with standing base footed Bodhisattva wearing a long garment with hanging scarfs and sharp edged foldings, and holding in his left hand raised to chest level between graciously sculptured fingers a lotus bud (symbol of great purity) and the water bottle in his right hand, head slightly bending forward with closed eyes and the face expressing the divine contentment. Headdress ornated with a lotus petals and floral crown. The upper part of the halo missing. Bottom part repaired. First third of six century A. D. Northern Wei," Frank Caro Archive, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, copy in object file. According to annotations on the stock card, Loo’s company purchased the sculpture from Edgar Worch in February 1944.

[5] See stock card cited in note 3. C. T. Loo opened C. T. Loo, INC in 1948, when he lost access to trade in China. The sculpture was shipped to the Freer Gallery on April 27, 1950; see "List of Objects Shipped to Freer Gallery of Art," dated April 27, 1950 on C. T. Loo, INC. letterhead, copy in object file. See also Loo's letter to Archibald Wenley, dated April 27, 1950, copy in object file.

[6] See C. T. Loo, INC. invoice, dated June 25, 1952, copy in object file.

[7] See invoice cited in note 6.

Previous Owner(s)

Friedrich Perzynski 1877-1965
Edgar Worch 1880-1972
Paul Kempner 1889-1956
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948
C.T. Loo, INC. ca. 1948-no later than July 1953

Label

The relief sculpture is from Gongxian, a small site of five Buddhist cave-temples in Henan Province, in northern China. It was removed in the early part of the twentieth century and was in a private collection in Europe in the 1920s. Its original position was in a niche on the rear wall of Gongxian Cave 1, as an attendant bodhisattva (enlightened being) to the right of a seated Buddha image. A recent visit to the site conclusively confirmed the original location. Before this proof, some scholars speculated that the sculpture might be a copy, on the basis of the relatively large, evenly shaped background behind the figure, as well as the work's pristine condition.

The bodhisattva wears a crown and a cape, adorned with a disk and ribbons on each shoulder, that crosses the body in a distinctive X pattern. He holds a flask and a lotus bud. The figure's face is soft and fleshy, and the drapery (especially on the left), in contrast, is crisp and sharp. The light-colored, smooth surface on the left indicates areas that were cleaned and probably recut after the removal of the work from its original site.

Published References
  • Gesellschaft fur Ostasiatische Kunst. Austellung Chinesischer Kunst. Berlin. pl. 66.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 74, vol. 1: p. 170.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. The Freer Gallery of Art of the Smithsonian Institution., 10th Printing. Washington. p. 9.
  • Jan Stuart, Chang Qing. Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in a New Light at the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 32, no. 4 Hong Kong, April 2002. p. 29, fig. 1.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 36.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 72-73.
  • Chinese Art Society of America. Chinese Art Recently Acquired by American Museums. vol. 7. p. 85, fig. 10.
  • Otto Kümmel, Gesellschaft fur Ostasiatische Kunst, Preussischen Akademie der Kuenste Berlin. Austellung Chinesischer Kunst., 2 Aufl. Berlin. cat. 242, p. 113.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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