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Limestone Head of a Bodhisattva

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Longmen Cave Temples, Henan province

Dark grey limestone carved head of a bodhisattva, probably Maitreya. The typically elongated face is set with arching brows above eyes half closed in contemplation below heavy lids and the well-shaped bud-like mouth is formed into an ‘archaic’ smile. The hair is simply arranged beneath a tall head-dress or crown carved in the centre with a figure of a seated Buddha against a mandorla.
 

Height: 28.0cm
Width: 11.0cm

Provenance:
Mr and Mrs Frederick Stafford and hence by descent.

Exhibited:
Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans, 1966.

Published:
James B. Byrnes, Odyssey of an Art Collector; Unity in Diversity, 5000 Years of Art, New Orleans, 1966, catalogue number 89.

Similar examples:
Eskenazi Limited, Chinese art from tombs and temples, London, 1993, number 43.

Arts Asiatiques, volume XXXVIII, Paris, 1983, ‘Activities du Musee Guimet’, page 98, figure 8.

The cave temples at Longmen were started shortly after 494, when the Northern Wei capital moved to Luoyang. As at Yungang, some of the caves at Longmen, such as the Binyang cave, were under imperial patronage but the many dedicatory inscriptions show that this was not always the case. Unlike at Yungang, where almost all the work was concentrated in a forty-year period before 500, the carving of the caves at Longmen continued on a large scale until the end of the Tang period. The present head is probably associated with the phase of carving around the early sixth century and the Guyang, Binyang and Lianhua Caves at Longmen are carved with comparable figures of Maitreya.