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Guanyin in Her Cave at Putuo
Item No. 19207

18th - 19th Century, Buddhist, China
Lacquer over Wood and Polychrome
9.5" x 4.25" x 3.75"
( 24.13 x 10.795 x 9.525 cm)
(H x W x D)

This carving presents a White Clad Guanyin, her hair on top of the head in a bun that cascades down the back of the neck to the shoulders. She does not wear the traditional hood that usually covers the head and shoulders. She sits in the royal ease position (lalitsana) with her right hand resting on the upraised angular right leg that is held in place by the left leg which is bent at the knee and placed under the body. Her left elbow and much of her weight rests on a projecting armature which also holds the vase in the rear, while her left hand hold a sutra in the form of a scroll. She sits on a throne held aloft by three lotuses with large red buds that is partially obscured by the voluminous robes which fall in front and each side in deeply carved folds. The cave walls are represented by pierced, curving-forward, umbrella-like walls standing to the rear of the Bodhisattva, while the lotus base grows out of a circular base painted red, the color of “fu.” The walls, the buds, the right shoe, the projecting armature, her back and other areas are painted red, although there are losses that show the process of the application of color to the carving.

On Guanyin’s back, for instance, the wood was covered first with a thin white painted ground over which a layer of paper with gold was applied. Then, a second layer of gold and paper was applied, and, thereafter, the layer of the thick red paint mentioned above was added. One must not assume these layers were applied everywhere and in the same manner, although paper layers seem to have been applied to the head and front robes. On the vase, the hems of the robe and the lotus leaves, areas were painted with a thick green, while the hair bun and the robes were painted black and other areas were done in gold. Some areas were also covered with a lacquer coating, but most other areas were left without lacquer. In its present state, most of the painted surface of Guanyin and her robes are left without paint, with the white painted ground or the white painted paper ground. Interspersed in these areas are small areas of green, red, white or dark lacquered paint, areas that give the viewer insight into the creative process in the making of such a piece

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