Historical Buddha


Historical period(s)
Sui dynasty or early Tang dynasty, late 6th-early 7th century
Hemp cloth, lacquer, wood, metal wire, and glass with traces of pigment and gilding
H x W x D: 99.5 x 72.5 x 56.7 cm (39 3/16 x 28 9/16 x 22 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 26e: Secrets of the Lacquer Buddha
Lacquer, Sculpture

Buddhist sculpture

Buddhism, China, Gautama Buddha, Sui dynasty (581 - 618), WWII-era provenance

To 1944
Ellis Monroe, New York. [1]

From 1944
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Ellis Monroe, New York. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record. Also see correspondences between Jan W.A. Kleijkamp, Ellis Monroe, and A.G. Wenley in the object file, Collections Management Office. In a letter dated June 3, 1944 written by Jan W.A. Kleijkamp to the director, A.G. Wenley states: ““The Pitcairn collection” was, as you know, a joint venture of Mr. Monroe and myself. As Mr. Monroe is handling the finances in regard to our venture, he will send a bill”…, copy of letter in the object file.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Ellis Monroe


The aloof grace and lean proportions of this image of the historical Buddha are typical of sixth-century Chinese sculpture. The naturalistic drapery and hints of anatomical modeling, however, suggest a date closer to the seventh century. Layers of lacquer-impregnated fabric were draped over a clay core and covered with a lacquer-based paste that was modeled to create the details. After the lacquer dried, the clay core was removed, leaving a lightweight, durable shell that was painted and embellished with gold. This technique of work is called "dry lacquer."

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

Copyright with museum