Following the video about the Buddha head with a fragmentary halo, here is more about halos in early Chinese Buddhist sculpture, and the origins of the halo in religious art.
A look at an exceptionally well preserved and very finely carved marble head of a Buddha that has remains of original paint, including a small mustache.
A look at a small head of a Buddha that preserves a fragment of the halo that was originally behind the head. It is a small gem of a piece, one of my personal favorites.
A look at a beautiful Chinese, Northern Wei head of a Bodhisattva and its beatific and enigmatic smile, with references to other cultures and periods, including our own. The slight smile is seen in the art of many human cultures, and signifies secret knowledge and wisdom, as well as the peace that comes from that.
People coming into the gallery often comment on the feeling they get from the Buddhist sculptures, and in fact that was the purpose of this art. This brings us to a paradox of Buddhist images, for originally Buddhism was aniconic, focused on the disciplines of meditation and release from the material world. How were these images explained in Buddhism, and what role did they serve? These are the questions we ask in this video, which will be one of a series. We pull in pop culture references to help illustrate the power that these images are meant to contain.
A look at three Buddha heads from the 6th to 8th Centuries A.D. and how we can date them stylistically.
We look at a pair of marble statuettes, one a Buddha and the other a Bodhisattva, which allows me to discuss the difference between them. The statuettes are carved of the same marble, have the same well preserved surfaces and remains of paint remaining, and must have come from the same site, and appear to have been intended as part of the same group, either just as the pair as they are here now, or they might have been part of a trilogy, with another Bodhisattva, as often the Buddha is seen between two Bodhisattvas. Whether always just a pair of two of a larger sculptural assembly, there is little doubt that these sculptures were intended to be together, made at the same time, and found together. To summarize the difference between a Buddha and Bodhisattva, a Buddha is the fully enlightened one, who has transcended our reality and reached Nirvana, the state of liberation from this plane and the cycle of rebirths known as samsara. It is the realization of non-self, the ultimate […]
detail of photo taken by Susan B. Anthony last year with the Kuanyin to the far right. This is a tale of the art world and how some dealers operate and what can happen. It also illustrates the arbitrary nature of prices and how hard it is to place value on these objects, whose artistic quality and historic significance makes them truly priceless. About a year ago, or so, I was in my colleagues place and on a counter top full of objects from all sorts of cultures and times, was a small intense dark stone sculpture of a Bodhisattva, of the most amazing quality. Upon looking at it, and seeing the incredible detail of its carving I had to have it and after a reverse negotiation, i.e., I offered what I thought was a high price, higher than I had been accustomed to paying, my colleague agreed to sell it to me. He loved the piece as well and said that if I ever needed cash, he’d happily buy it back from me. I […]
This February I was I in Florida for a vacation and to go to an antiques show in Miami. There, with a dealer from Sarasota Florida I found two Buddha statues. I was told they came from a Chinese family that had left China during the Cultural Revolution in the 1970’s and lived first in Long Island, and recently moved to Sarasota. They brought a number of things out of China with them, and these sculptures were among them. When I saw the Buddhas amongst antique European and American furniture and decorative pieces I did a double take, they were so out of context. But even so, I could tell they were real and bought them immediately. It took a while to get them up to Hudson, they are large, and the mover who picked them up in Florida, only comes up to the New York area a few times a year. But get here they did after about a month, and fortunately, remained intact. When confronted with a piece in an unexpected […]
Limestone Stela of a Buddha, China, Eastern Wei 534 – 550 A.D. This stela was in a Stotheby’s New York sale titled, “Images of Enlightenment: Devotional works of Art & Paintings”, held September 16, 2015, lot 422. It failed to sell, which was shocking to me as I posted here: http://tomswope.com/the-power-of-negativity/ It has reappeared on the market however. I was just in Paris, for a tribal and Asian art fair held in early September the Parcours des Mondes, Paris. One of the best dealers in Asian art in Paris, participated in the fair, Jacques Barrere, who was featuring some very good early Chinese Buddhist sculptures. Later that same week, his gallery was also exhibiting in the huge Paris Biennale . The star of his offering at the Biennale was the same stela that failed to sell at Sotheby’s. Sources who were at the Sotheby’s sale in New York where the stela had failed to sell, told me that the Chinese dealers were telling anyone who was willing to listen that the sculptures in the […]
Head of a Buddha, China, late 6th Century A.D. 3/4 side view of the head above Side view of the head above I just acquired a large head of a Buddha, and wanted to share with my readers how I looked at it and came up the with dating through comparisons to established parallels. Pictured above, it is a life sized head at 12 1/2 inches high, carved of a dark grey limestone shot through with white veins, and retains traces of its original gold leaf and some paint, particularly the red on the lips. It has a great archeological surface that has not been over cleaned. While at first glance it looks like all the other Buddha heads that one sees, this has certain stylistic features that help to date it rather precisely. Let us start with the ushnisha, the cranial lump that is a mark of the Buddha. Here the ushnisha is distinctly marked as a separate cranial node but it is a low and wide unlike the high narrow high ushnisha seen […]
This past week was Asia Week at Sotheby’s New York and Christie’s. The Sotheby’s sale had some exceptional and very good early Chinese Buddhist sculpture, Christie’s had almost nothing of that type. The estimates at Sotheby’s were very high, I thought overly ambitious, but I was hopeful. Perhaps Sotheby’s was hoping to recreate the excitement and high prices generated by the Robert Ellsworth auction earlier in March of this year: http://tomswope.com/amazing-results-the-robert-ellsworth-sale-at-christies-march-2015/. The early Chinese Buddhist sculpture in the Ellsworth sale sold exceptionally well, going way over the conservatively low, but realistic estimates. However, as I would like to see the field progress, I was hoping the high expectations at Sotheby’s would be realized. I was unable to attend the sale in person, so followed it live online, as now anyone with an internet connection can. It was a shocking experience, not a single one of the early Chinese Buddhist sculptures sold. Below are the top three pieces: lot 422, Sotheby’s 16 September 2015 sale The stela above has a single Buddha standing with a flame […]