Gilt Stucco Head of Kuan-Yin

SKU H.049

960 AD to 1644 AD


18″ (45.7cm) high





Gallery Location



Cast in exquisite detail, this sculpture of Kuan-Yin is applied with red and black lacquer and gilt in the face and black and blue pigment in the headdress. Her oval face, aquiline nose, pursed lips, and delicately shaped downcast eyes make up her benevolent expression. A circular impression on her forehead represents the urna, a Buddhist mark signifying spiritual enlightenment. Elongated earlobes, another Buddhist mark, symbolized overabundant generosity. Bodhisattvas and Kuan-Yin figures were often adorned with jeweled earrings and other dazzling adornments, as may have once been the case with this figure. A distinctive feature of Kuan-Yin is her elaborate headdress—in this piece depicted by a triangular-shaped tiara, centered on the image of Amitaba Buddha holding a bowl amongst foliate sprigs. The tiara is delicately constructed piece by piece, held together by wiring exposed in some areas. The hair is combed and tied up in a knot encircled by the large crown.

The Kuan-Yin is part of the Buddhist constellation of Bodhisattvas, devotees who have attained enlightenment but traverse the earth to promote the teachings of Buddha. Through divine example of guidance, the Bodhisattvas communicate with the people, helping them cope with the difficulties of life and attain some measure of spiritual cultivation. Thus, they have become popular subjects for representation, sometimes combining their attributes with characterizations of indigenous deities or religious beliefs. Kuan-Yin has a strong feminine presence in Chinese art as she is also referred to as the Goddess of Mercy, named after her attributes of compassion and pity.

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