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Image of Guanyin in Her Cave at Putuo
Item No. 16843

Late 19th Century, Buddhist, China
Wood with Pigmentation
10" x 4.5" x 3.5"
( 25.4 x 11.43 x 8.89 cm)
(H x W x D)

Guanyin sits atop a large lotus bud that is finely carved with her legs crossed in padmasana, although they are covered with the cloth of the robe and are not visible. The lotus-throne seems to grow from an oddly shaped base that is semi-circular in front and oval in the rear from which springs the lotus in the center, two lotus leaf constructions that rise and fall back to the base on the right and left and a thicker and less organic support in the rear, all of which support the lotus throne. They also support the pierced cave wall behind the Bodhisattva that rises in two irregular vertical structures, the rocky cave ceiling or overhang and small constructs on each side of Guanyin that support the parrot and the vase.

Guanyin wears a five-lobe crown with red ribbons on the rear at the ears that fall straight beyond the shoulders to the upper arms. The lobes are decorated with vertical grooves representing rays of light, and each lobe rises at the top to become a pointed triangle. The face is deeply carved oval characterized by prominent cheekbones, a prominent chin, a wide and fairly flat none the rises upward and curves in each direction to form the arching eyebrows, a high forehead and closed, deeply cut angular eyelids. Guanyin wears the normal three-part robes which are deeply cut at the chest and the sleeves, and deeply cut folds are seen at the lower arms and between the legs. This deep carving in the robes, the depth of the carving of the jewelry, waistbands and hem of the robe at the chest, the open areas under the lotuses and the pierced walls of the cave framework result in interplays of light and dark that are added nuances to the artistry of this piece.

The lower part of the base is painted red and the top of the base as well as the lotus leaves and stems and the walls and overhang of the cave are painted green, although, in the case of the cave walls and overhang. A thin layer of green is covered with black. The large central lotus has a coat of red covered with layers of black. The face of Guanyin had a white base over which a flesh-colored layer was applied. Thereafter, a thick layer of dark lacquer was applied, and it is now quite opaque. The result of paint losses in the face which has uncovered various layers of red, black, white and flesh color is that Guanyin’s face is very dramatic and carries the same kind of gravitas as a brightly-lit theater mask, although, at the same time, her features, her posture and her expression are soft, rounded and calm, expressing a reverence and spirituality that are convincing.

Select for detailed information about Guanyin in the Cave of Tidal Sound on Mount Putuo.

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