A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century

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Lot 79
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya
Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century

Sold for US$ 400,312 inc. premium
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF JAMES AND MARILYNN ALSDORF
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya
Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
The slender figure depicted as an Indian prince, a tall crown rising above his smiling face with angular features, a flat necklace around his neck and a long scarf that falls downward from his narrow shoulders to frame the upper hem of his dhoti secured with a bow-tied sash, the sharply-cut folds of the material cascading across and around his pendant legs crossed at the ankles as he sits with his right hand raised palm-outward in a gesture of reassurance (abhayamudra) and his lowered left hand holding an object balanced on his knee.
17 1/4in (44cm) high

Footnotes

  • 北魏 五/六世紀 交腳菩薩石像 龍門石窟

    Provenance
    C. T. Loo (Frank Caro, successor), New York, 22 September 1953

    來源
    蘆芹齋 (Frank Caro),紐約,1953年9月22日


    The Northern Wei dynasty was a period of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change. The messianic figure of Maitreya was believed to return to earth to preach the dharma once the teachings of the historical Buddha have been forgotten in those troubled times and to bring a new era of peace. The popularity of Maitreya among Buddhist patrons inspired arresting images in various poses. One format displays his right leg crossed over the left knee, the right arm raised with one hand touching the cheek of his head leaning slightly in the same direction, as documented in the stone Maitreya sold in our New York room, 19 March 2018, lot 8028. A second variation in the format has the figure of Maitreya with his pendant legs crossed at the ankles and his head leaning slightly downward to rest on the hand of his raised left arm: see the Maitreya of dark grey stone characteristic of the Longmen caves in Henan, dated to the early sixth century, from the collection of the Albright Knox Gallery sold at Sotheby's, New York, 19-20 March 2007, lot 503 (23 3/8 in. [59cm] high).

    The third format, represented by the Alsdorf Maitreya, maintains the legs crossed at the ankles but the right had raised palm-outward in a gesture of reassurance. However there is some disagreement as to whether this pose is limited to Maitreya. Denise Patry Leidy discusses the problem in relation to two majestic painted sandstone images from late 5th century caves at Yungang, Shanxi: the larger image from Cave 25 (cat. no. 3a, 57 ½ in. [146.1 cm.] high) with a seated Amitabha Buddha to the front of his crown considered as probably the bodhisattva Guanyin, while the undecorated crown on the slightly smaller image possibly meant as Maitreya (cat. no. 3b 51 in. [129.5 cm.] high): see Denise Patry Leidy and Donna Strahan, Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2010, pp. 53-56. However a dark grey bodhisattva also in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (39.190, Fletcher Fund), with pose similar to the Alsdorf figure but seated between two lions, is considered as possibly Maitreya, datable to the early sixth century and probably from the Guyang cave site in the Longmen complex (see p. 169, cat. no A2).

    For other sculptures of similar size and pose comparable to the Alsdorf figure, see the bodhisattva, identified as Maitreya, with his hand raised in abhayamudra (24 in. [61 cm.] high) from the Longmen complex acquired by the Art Museum of the University of Pennsylvania in 1940 from Yamanaka & Company: www.penn.museum/collections/object/208586. The site from which the relief was taken supposedly had a dedicatory inscription corresponding to 512. Also of note is the seated bodhisattva in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (B60S573, The Avery Brundage Collection, 22 ¾ in. [57.8cm] high), originally published by René-Yvon Lefebvre d'Argencé in Chinese, Korean and Japanese Sculpture in the Avery Brundage Collection, Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco, 1974, pp. 94-95, cat no. 35. However photographs now available on the website show both the thinness of relief and the reinforcement on the reverse of possible fragments, comparable to the Alsdorf sculpture and other examples, that occurred with their removal from the Longmen site in the early years of the 20th century.

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A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
A rare black stone figure of Maitreya Northern Wei Dynasty, Longmen Caves, 5th/6th century
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