Head of Guanyin

A work made of marble with traces of metal fittings at crown.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of marble with traces of metal fittings at crown.

Date:

late Northern Qi/Sui dynasty, late 6th century

Artist:

China

About this artwork

The benign, altruistic aspect of Buddhism is expressed in this beautifully sculpted marble head of the bodhisattva Guanyin (Sanskrit: Avalokitesvara). The miniature image of the Buddha known as Amitabha (Amituo), depicted in the crown, is clear indication of the bodhisattva’s identity. Certain features of this head are shared with other Buddhist icons: the concave forehead circle (urna) is an auspicious mark from which wisdom radiates; the elongated earlobes allude to the aristocratic Indian custom of wearing heavy earrings, and thereby to the Buddha’s early life as an Indian prince.

This majestic head, which was severed from a monumental standing figure, characterizes the finest sculpture made in far northern China in the late sixth century. The fine-grain white marble from this area was well suited to rounded, smoothly polished surfaces and austere, idealized images. Serene benevolence emanates from Guanyin’s gentle, meditative expression (somewhat altered by later recutting of the pupils of the eyes).

On View

Asian Art, Gallery 101

Title

Head of Guanyin

Origin

China

Date

575 AD–600 AD

Medium

Marble with traces of metal fittings at crown

Dimensions

68.6 × 43.2 × 45.7 cm (27 1/16 × 17 1/16 × 18 in.)

Credit Line

Samuel M. Nickerson Collection

Reference Number

1923.1114

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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