- Provenance information is currently unavailable
- Previous Owner(s)
Mr. Myron S. Falk, Jr. 1906 - 1992
Otto Burchard 1892-1965
Pauline Baerwald Falk 1910 - 2000
This massive, early sixth-century figure was originally situated high overhead in the Binyang cave at the Longmen Grottoes, a famous Buddhist cave-temple complex built under imperial sponsorship in north China. The Binyang cave features huge sculptures of Buddhas crafted in a conservative and statically formal style as well as more naturalistic, relaxed bas-relief figures with sweeping drapery, including this image that portrays the supremely wise Buddhist layman Vimalakirti (known as Weimo in Chinese). A famous Buddhist sutra recounts a debate between the bodhisattva (enlightened being) of wisdom, Manjusri (Wenshu in Chinese) and Vimalakirti, who exhibited stunningly profound knowledge of Buddhist dharma, or truth. He holds a fanlike whisk; in ancient China this signified involvement in intellectual discourse.
Vimalakirti's reclining pose reflects the setting of the debate, which was described as held from his sick bed. The figure's now-missing left arm (propped on a cushion) is still visible at Longmen. This sculpture was removed from China in the 1930s and arrived in the United States in numerous pieces that were reassembled; losses were filled with replacement materials. Despite its damaged condition, including erosion of pigment that once covered the surface, this figure is still awe-inspiring and offers testimony to the grandeur of the Longmen Grottoes created for Buddhist worship.
- Published References
- Chang Qing. Search and Research: The Provenance of Longmen Images in the Freer Collection. vol. 34, no. 5 Hong Kong, May 2003. p. 24, fig. 12.
- Collection Area(s)
- Chinese Art
- Web Resources
- Google Cultural Institute
- Rights Statement
Copyright with museum