Seated Buddha

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 1440-1550
Ivory, traces of gilding, lacquer, and azurite
H x W x D: 31.1 x 25.4 x 16.3 cm (12 1/4 x 10 x 6 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Figure: Buddha

Buddha, Buddhism, China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)

To 1916
Lai-Yuan and Company, New York, to 1916 [1]

From 1916 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Lai-Yuan and Company in 1916 [2]

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


[1] See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 897, 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) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Lai-Yuan & Company (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1915-April 1921


This meditative Buddha has seen the ravages of time, including losses, breaks, and erosion of the surface pigment. Originally the hair was painted blue, the flesh was gilded, and the robe was lacquered red, with gold filling in the incised lines that pattern the textile.

The date assigned to this statue has been revised several times during the twentieth century. When acquired in 1916, it was dated to the twelfth century or earlier. In 1962, radiocarbon testing was conducted, and the ivory was dated to between 1550 and 1750. The curator assigned a date of circa 1750 for the carving.
Now similar stone and bronze figures from the fifteenth century are well known, and recently revised scientific standards for calibrating the results of radiocarbon tests suggest a date of between 1440 and 1660 for the tusk itself. A few scholars still disagree about the date of this Buddha. A similar ivory in a London museum has been estimated to date to between 1200 and 1350 based on a slight Tibetan cast to the figure, but the arguments for such an early date are not persuasive. The Tibetan features of the Freer's Buddha are so fully assimilated that a date of circa 1450-1550 seems likely, and scientific evidence supports this conclusion.

Published References
  • Jan Stuart, Chang Qing. Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in a New Light at the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 32, no. 4 Hong Kong, April 2002. p. 36, fig. 11.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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