Nepalese-Chinese-style bodhisattva

Historical period(s)
Yuan dynasty, 13th century
Lacquer, cloth, traces of blue, gold, and green paint, and gold leaf
H x W x D: 58.5 x 43.3 x 29.5 cm (23 1/16 x 17 1/16 x 11 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Lacquer, Sculpture


bodhisattva, Buddhism, China, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)
Provenance research underway.

Made in China, the style of this bodhisattva (enlightened being) is Nepalese, while the lacquer technique is Chinese. In the thirteenth century, the Mongol ruler Khubilai Khan (1215-1294) invited eighty Nepalese artist-monks to China to construct and adorn a monastery. One of the artists, the renowned Aniko, remained in China and founded the workshop in which this bodhisattva was undoubtedly made. The lacquer technique used is the "dry lacquer" technique, in which several layers of lacquer-impregnated cloth are arranged over a rough clay core and the finishing details are modeled in a paste-like lacquer mixture. Thin iron rods help support fragile parts. When the lacquer dries, the clay core is removed, leaving an exceptionally light sculpture for its size. This image was once painted and gilded, but only traces remain.

Published References
  • Celia Heil. Lacquer Across the Oceans: Independent Invention or Diffusion?. .
  • Chugoku bijutsu [Chinese Art in Western Collections]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. vol. 3: pl. 86.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 84, vol. 1: p. 173.
  • Heather Stoddard. Early Sino-Tibetan Art., 2nd rev. ed. Bangkok. p. 20, pl. 11.
  • Faith and Empire Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism. Exh. cat. New York, New York. p 34, fig 1.9.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 43.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 100-101.
  • The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty. Exh. cat. London and New Haven, September 28 - January 2, 2010. pp. 103, 106, fig. 137.
  • Denise Patry Leidy. The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to its History & Meaning., 1st ed. Boston. p. 238.
  • Sherman Lee. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1964. p. 400, fig. 528.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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