Wood figure of the Bodhisattva Guanyin
Chinese, with polychrome decoration and gilding, 93 cm high, from north China, Northern Song dynasty, 10th – 11th century AD.
This figure would have originally stood to the left of a central Buddha image in a temple. It comes from the northern province of Shanxi, where the Wutai Mountains became a site of Buddhist pilgrimage as early as the fifth century AD and temples are numerous. Sculptures such as this were an aspect of temple architecture rather than individually conceived works of art; this figure is carved from a single piece of wood whereas larger images were made from several blocks fixed together with mortise and tenon joints. The robes are in keeping with extant fabrics of the period, and the raised gesso floral ornament is comparable to designs painted and impressed on Song ceramics. [Purchased with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, S. Wheatland Fisher, the Friends of the Ashmolean, an anonymous benefactor, and the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, EA1999.96].