Provenance: Arthur Huc (1854-1932). Marcel Huc, inherited from the above. Thence by descent within the same family. Arthur Huc was the chief editor of La Dépêche du Midi, at the time the leading newspaper in Toulouse, France. He was also an accomplished art critic and early patron of several artists, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the same time, Arthur Huc was a keen collector of Asian art, a passion that he inherited from his legendary ancestor Évariste Régis Huc, also known as the Abbé Huc (1813–1860), a French Catholic priest and traveler who became famous for his accounts of Qing-era China, Mongolia and especially the then-almost-unknown Tibet in his book “Remembrances of a Journey in Tartary, Tibet, and China”.
Condition: Extensive weathering, wear, breaks, losses and erosions as visible on the images at www.zacke.at. Remnants of an old varnish coating. Two structural cracks, one at the neck and one just above the feet, both with old fillings. Considering the age of this statue, the condition must still be regarded as highly satisfying.
French Export License: Certificat d’exportation pour un bien culturel Nr. 185432 dated 3.07.2017 has been granted and is accompanying this lot.
Scientific Report: A detailed microanalysis report, issued by Laboratoire M.S.M.A.P. SARL, Sciences des Matériaux Anciens et du Patrimoine - Etude des objets d’art, Nr. 20-050 OA (dated 02/24/20) is accompanying this object. The report states that the characteristics of the present lot are “in accordance with the assumed origin and age of the object.” (please see scans of the report online at www.zacke.at)
Weight: 98 kg (including the base)
Dimensions: 100 cm (without the base)
This figure of a bodhisattva is remarkable for its graceful pose, naturalistic, yet genderless physique, elegant flowing skirt and scarves, and voluminous flower-decorated hair style. It is a classic example of China’s Buddhist stone carving from the period that saw perhaps the greatest flowering of China’s plastic arts, the High Tang period under Emperor Xuanzong (r. 713-755). An elaborate multi-strand necklace is hanging down from the shoulders along either side of the sensual, rounded belly and stops just above the ankles, centered by a lotus pendant. The dhoti is ribbon-tied above the waist and cascades in folds along the contours of the legs. The head bears a five-pointed diadem just below a minuscule statue of Amithaba. The figure stands on a single lotus base, raised from a square plinth flanked by two guardian lions.
In the early Tang period we begin to see a more naturalistic approach to the depiction of Buddhist deities, for example in late 7th century caves at Longmen, constructed under Empress Wu (624-705), where bodhisattvas are already rendered as more human figures, standing with a slight swerve to the body and performing naturalistic gestures (Zhongguo meishu quanji: Diaosu bian [Complete series on Chinese art: Sculpture section], vol. 11, Shanghai, 1988, pl. 183 and Ryumon Sekkutsu / Longmen Caves, exhibition catalogue, The Miho Museum, n. p., 2001, p. 62). The full transformation towards a ravishingly beautiful, sensuous naturalism in Buddhist imagery, where the religious message is delivered through a very accessible form of human beauty did, however, only materialized in the High Tang period. This era marks the fully matured style of Buddhist stone sculpture, a style similarly manifested also in gilt bronze, clay and wood, and it unquestionably marks one of the finest periods of China’s sculptural tradition, which brought forth some of the country’s most impressive figurative masterpieces.
The Tang dynasty saw an unequalled flowering of the Buddhist doctrine and imagery, which exerted a major influence on all strata of Chinese society right up to the court. The present figure with its deliberate indication of a well-formed, youthful, swaying body, the weight slightly shifted to one leg, the fleshy yet compact torso exposed and the legs clearly visible under a thin, clinging garment, is a prime example of such High Tang Buddhist imagery in stone. While the figure is depicted as genderless and not specifically identified as the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the opulent coiffure suggests a female deity and the benevolent face clearly evokes the ‘Bodhisattva of Compassion’, better known as the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin.
Associated modern metal base. (2)
Literature comparison: Although this sculpture stands firmly in the stylistic context of its period, only few closely related works appear to have survived. Even if similarities with contemporary cave sculptures found in situ are obvious, since their style dominated the arts and crafts of the period, variations of facial expression, jewelry and dress are to be expected on freestanding sculptures produced by locally working craftsmen. Bodhisattva figures depicted in a comparable manner can be seen, for example, at the Tianlongshan Caves near Taiyuan in Shanxi, one of the smaller ensembles of rock carvings in north China, with only twenty-one caves. Carving here continued from the end of the Northern Wei right through to the Tang. The faces carved in the somewhat coarse stone are characterized by particularly soft features, and some caves are renowned for their flamboyant Tang carvings in the fully matured Chinese carving style of the High Tang period. Compare three bodhisattva figures from Tianlongshan, one in situ, illustrated in Tianlongshan shiku [Tianlongshan rock caves], Beijing, 2003, pl. 124, and another in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (37.329) (fig. 1), and the third, lacking its head, in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (René-Yvon Lefebvre d’Argencé, ed., Chinese, Korean and Japanese Sculpture in the Avery Brundage Collection, San Francisco, 1974, pl. 108). The Tianlongshan bodhisattvas are, however, characterized by a more voluptuous roundness of the faces as well as the bodies.
In its general pose and physique, the present sculpture can also be compared to two bodhisattva figures of similar date attributed to the Longmen Caves, both formerly in the Junkunc Collection, sold at Christie’s New York, 21st September 1995, lots 301 and 302, the former illustrated in Osvald Sirén, Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century, London, 1925, pl. 464. These Longmen figures, however, display a much more solid physique. The prevalent carving style of the period reflected by this bodhisattva figure can equally be seen on steles, where two such figures are flanking a central Buddha; see, for example, Matsubara Saburo, Chugoku Bukkyo chokoku shiron [Historical survey of Chinese Buddhist sculpture], Tokyo, 1995, vol. 3, particularly 656b, 658b, 660b, 663a and 670 for examples from the High Tang and slightly earlier.
Auction result comparison: Compare with a closely related white marble statue at Sotheby’s New York in Junkunc: Arts of Ancient China, 19 March 2019, lot 120, sold for USD $740,000.
來源：此像源自法國阿瑟∙胡克（1854-1932）收藏。馬爾塞∙胡克繼承，家族保存。阿瑟∙胡克先生曾是圖盧斯市《快訊》極受歡迎的時政記者，直至1932年去世，他還是一個著名的藝術評論家。同時，他也開始收藏亞洲藝術。其收藏可追溯到額法李斯特∙雷吉斯∙胡克，又名阿貝∙胡克（1813-1860，中文名古伯察Évariste Regis Huc），一個法國傳教士，他在蒙古、西藏及中國的游記《鞑靼西藏旅行记》使他成名。
品相：如www.zacke.at上的細圖所示，菩薩像有大面積風化、磨損、斷裂、缺失和侵蝕。 舊清漆塗層的殘留物。 兩個結構性裂縫，一個在脖子上，一個恰好在腳上，均帶有舊時的填充物。考慮到這尊雕像的年代，目前的狀況是非常令人滿意的。