The serene meditative expression of this sculpture, rendered through the sensitive carving style and harmonious curves, epitomizes the high quality achieved by stone carvers in the Qi Dynasty. The oval face is accentuated with downcast eyes below gracefully arched eyebrows, the serene countenance centered with a pronounced long nose, above a bow-shaped mouth, the lips tenderly lifted at the corners in a beatific smile, and framed by a pair of long pendulous earlobes beneath hair neatly arranged in tight snail-shell curls over a subtle ushnisha, the mark of the Buddha’s transcendent wisdom.
Background: In the middle of the sixth century, many Indians and Persians were living in China, and Turks, who traveled on horseback through Central Asia to Persia (modern Iran), were in power north of the Great Wall. These influences transformed the figures at the enormous complex of Buddhist cave temples at North XiangtangShan from the linear abstraction of the Northern Wei style to a more rounded, three-dimensional one. This head may have belonged to a seated image of the Buddha. An almost geometric simplicity differentiates the sculpture from its Indian and Central Asian sources. The crisp, direct carving and almost mathematical perfection of this work is similar to those of images remaining at the site.
For related example see: Metropolian Museum of Art, accession number 2001.422. The museum notes: This head probably comes from Shandong or Hebei province. Many comparable examples were unearthed from the ruins of temples in Qingzhou, Shandong, in 1996, and in Linzhang, Hebei, in 2012.
Dimensions: Height: 7 1/4 inches (18.7 cm)
Condition: The head is intact and in excellent condition overall, with a particularly good archeological surface that has not been over-cleaned.
Provenance: Private Las Vegas, NV collection