A rare limestone figure of Buddha, China, Northern Wei dynasty, dated Taihe 18th year, corresponding to 494 AD. Photo Sotheby’s
carved seated in dhyanasana with right hand in abhayamudra and left hand grasping the loose end of the sanghati, the face with a serene expression, beneath striated hair covering the ushnisha, backed by a lotus-petal shaped mandorla, incised with an outer band of flames enclosing various floral bands, supported on a rectangular base carved to the front with two devotees flanking a censer, the left inscribed biqiuni Huibian (Nun Huibian) and two pairs of donors on the sides, the back with a dedicatory inscription dated Taihe shiba nian (Taihe eighteenth year). Height 18 1/8 in., 46.1 cm. Estimation 60,000 — 80,000 USD
Provenance: Sotheby’s London, 6th June 1995, lot 14.
The inscription on the back has been partially worn away. From what can be deciphered, the figure was made by a nun, Huibian, in commemoration of her parents from the present and the past seven lives. Figures of Buddhas and bodhisattvas were often commissioned to gain merit for both the living and the deceased, with the hope that they would eventually be reunited in the presence of the Buddha.
Two other examples of similar Buddha figures are illustrated in Jan Fontein and Tung Wu, Unearthing China’s Past, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 1973, no. 72 and figs. 75 and 75a. Another example from the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art is illustrated in Chinese Art in Overseas Collections, Buddhist Sculpture I, Taipei, 1998, no. 7.
Sotheby’s. Images of Enlightenment: Devotional Works of Art and Paintings, New York | 17 sept. 2014, 10:00 AM