Standing Buddha on a low four-legged platform

Historical period(s)
Twentieth century style of Northern Wei dynasty, early 20th century
Bronze, gilt
H x W x D (overall): 35.2 x 14.5 x 11.1 cm (13 7/8 x 5 11/16 x 4 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Sculpture

Buddhist sculpture

abhaya mudra, Buddha, Buddhism, China, flower, forgery, mandorla, Northern Wei dynasty (386 - 534), varada mudra
Provenance research underway.

Based upon visual analysis alone, this devotional image appears to be a genuine work of the Northern Wei dynasty (386-535), but recent scientific examination raises serious doubt about its authenticity. The metal alloy is brass, a mixture of copper and zinc, which is currently believed to have had little use in China before the fifteenth century. Genuine Northern Wei dynasty metal images were made of bronze. Also, if the green corrosion were genuine, it would consist of malachite, a mineral that forms on the surface of copper alloys buried for a long period. Yet, malachite is not present here. Instead the surface seems to have been treated with acidic solutions containing chloride to make it green-a trick known to forgers.

Scientific analysis cannot determine when this Buddha image was made; it can only determine that the image postdates the use of brass. However, since close replicas of Northern Wei gilt bronzes are not known from historical times, this Buddha was probably manufactured in the twentieth century to sell to foreigners. It exemplifies the remarkably high quality of some fakes. 

Published References
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 116, vol. 1: p. 177.
  • 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. 32, fig. 5.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 35.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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