Four-sided miniature stele

citation

Four-sided miniature stele.
Color of the stone: originally white (?), darkened and discolored. Traces of applied red and black pigment. Marble with traces of red and black pigments.

Historical period(s)
Possibly Western Wei dynasty, ca. 550
Medium
Marble with traces of red and black pigments.
Dimensions
H x W x D: 14 x 12 x 5.9 cm (5 1/2 x 4 3/4 x 2 5/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Accession Number
F1914.4
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Sculpture, Stone
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
abhaya mudra, Buddhism, China, Maitreya Buddha, shrine, Western Wei dynasty (535 - 556)
Provenance

To 1914
Yamanaka & Company, New York to 1914 [1]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company, New York in 1914 [2]

From 1920
The Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]

Notes:

[1] Undated folder sheet note. See S.I. 494, Original Miscellaneous List, p. 140, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source)

Description

Four-sided miniature stele.
Color of the stone: originally white (?), darkened and discolored. Traces of applied red and black pigment. Marble with traces of red and black pigments.

Label

This small shrine was probably made for private use. Although its authenticity has never been questioned, it is being exhibited here for the first time, partly because its modest scale and lack of inscribed date have led scholars to overlook it. Its darkened condition is also a factor, for to fully appreciate the carving, a viewer must look closely. If the work were to be cleaned, pigment might be lost. The front and rear niches contain a seated Buddha in monastic robes on one side and a crowned bodhisattva (enlightened being) on the other.

These images suggest the popular pairing of Shakyamuni (566-486 B.C.E.), the historical Buddha, and Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, who waits as a bodhisattva in a heavenly realm until he descends to earth as the next Buddha. It is unusual, however, to find Maitreya as a bodhisattva seated with pendant legs, a posture common for depictions of Maitreya as a Buddha. The side niches feature a Buddha and a bodhisattva. Stylistically the work seems Western Wei, circa 550, although the gently domed roof is unusual in a miniature shrine of this date.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum