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Carved Seated Lohan in Meditation
Item No. 16241

19th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood with Polychrome and Gilt
14.5" x 6.5" x 4.5"
( 36.83 x 16.51 x 11.43 cm)
(H x W x D)

This masterful image of a seated lohan is extremely well carved with close attention to fine detail. He is seated in meditation on a short backless oval plinth with the hands in his lap right hand over the left and thumbs almost touching in dhyana mudra and his legs in padmasana covered by his robe which falls between the knees to cover the legs. The triangle formed by the hands and the thumbs are symbolic of the triratna, the “Three Jewels” of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha) and the Sangha (the community of monks). The robes gracefully drape over the shoulders, arms and legs and are covered by a sash pulled through a round shoulder ring placed high on he shoulder creating thick, deeply-cut angular folds across the chest. The sleeves are unusually wide and fall from the wrists over the knees and to the ground on the right and to near the bottom of the plinth on the left. The robe is crossed high at the neck, and the borders are gilt and decorated with curvilinear designs in a thin line of lacquer set on top of the surface. The robe’s elaborate painted and applied decorations are extremely unusual, as robes for monks and Lohans and monks are generally simpler and less refined. There are roundels at each shoulder containing linear designs of birds, curling designs within the border of the robes and a mandarin square like bordered panel on the outer robe below the chest decorated with a third unidentified bird. The head, neck, hands and face were originally covered with lacquer which has now become an opaque black and the gilt in the border and red color of the robe were also covered with a thin layer of lacquer

The lohan’s head is oversized in relation to the body, which draws the viewer’s attention to his facial features. The size of the head is increased at the top and rear, the forehead is unusually high, the head distinctively widens above the temples and the rear of the skull bulges backward. The face is well defined and angular with creases on the forehead, deeply set, heavily lidded and well-defined eyes, bony and protruding cheekbones, large exaggerated pursed lips, a pronounced and strong jutting chin and pendulous ears. The profile is unusually angular and is strongly protruding unlike most examples that are rather flat, not as well defined and less prominent. The overall effect of the expression is one of serene and inward concentration. The back of the image is carved and finished with red applied directly over the wood base and includes a sealed bung originally set in an eye opening ceremony. The contrast between the power and strength of the angular facial features of the Lohan and his calm, peaceful and serene pose creates visual counterpoints that make it difficult for the observer to avert their gaze from this piece.


Select for detailed information about Lohan (Arhats) in Chinese Buddhist Art.

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