Fragment of standing Bodhisattva

Historical period(s)
Northern Wei dynasty, 500-535
Sandstone with traces of polychrome
H x W: 65.5 x 26.7 cm (25 13/16 x 10 1/2 in)
China, Henan province
Credit Line
Transfer from the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone

Figure: bodhisattva (fragment)

bodhisattva, Buddhism, China, lotus, Northern Wei dynasty (386 - 534)

From probably 1936 to 1941
C. T. Loo & Co., New York, probably from October 1936, not later than January 1938 [1]

From 1941 to 1951
Eduard von der Heydt (1882-1964), Ascona, Switzerland, purchased from C. T. Loo in April 1941 and lent to the Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York [2]

US Government vested Eduard von der Heydt's property under the provisions of "Trading with the Enemy Act" by vesting order, dated August 21, 1951 [3]

From 1964 to 1973
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, from March 1964 [4]

From 1973
Freer Gallery of Art, transferred from National Museum of Natural History in 1973 [5]


[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 65055: "Standing Bodhisattva holding a lotus in his right hand. Stone. Legs missing. Wei dynasty: 220-265 A. D. Black marble base," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. Notes on the stockcard indicate that the sculpture was inventoried by Loo in October 1936. In January 1938, the sculpture was exhibited by Loo at the Art Club of Chicago, see "Exhibitions of Oriental Art," Parnassus vol. 10, no. 1 (January 1938), pp. 36 (ill.), 37.

[2] See Loo's stockcard cited in note 1. See also "Catalogue of the Von der Heydt Loan to the Buffalo Museum of Science: Loan Material from Baron Von der Heydt, as of March 1949," where the sculpture is documented under an inventory card no. 4151, copy in object file.

[3] See Vesting Order No. 18344, August 21, 1951, Office of Alien Property, Department of Justice. Eduard von der Heydt exhausted all the legal remedies against the forfeiture of his property provided to him by the Trading with the Enemy Act.

[4] Attorney General, Robert Kennedy authorized transfer of the von der Heydt collection from Buffalo Museum of Science to the custody of the Smithsonian Institution in March 1964. The collection was transferred to the National Museum of Natural History. In 1966 US Congress legislated transferring the title of the von der Heydt collection to the Smithsonian Institution, see Public Law 89-503, 80 Stat. 287, July 18, 1966. The sculpture was accessioned under no. 448099, see "Smithsonian Office of Anthropology Accession Data," copy in object file.

[5] The sculpture was among 13 objects in the von der Heydt collection transferred from National Museum of Natural History to the Freer Gallery of Art, see "Smithsonian Institution Intramural Transfer of Specimens" memorandum, dated January 29, 1973, copy in object file. It was accessioned to the Freer Gallery Study Collection under no. FSC-S-9 and subsequently transferred to the permanent collection in August 1978.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution
Baron Eduard von der Heydt 1882-1964
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


This figure of a bodhisattva, or enlightened being, is smaller than but similar to the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) figure from the Gongxian cave-temples in Henan Province displayed in the center of the room to your left. From the time this small sculptural fragment entered the collection in 1978, scholarly opinion has held that it is from Gongxian; however, an examination of the positions of missing bodhisattva figures from Gongxian in 2001 indicated that this sculpture was not from that site. Probably the figure was taken from one of numerous small, not well-known cave-temples in Henan Province. The crown, composed of lotus petal shapes, is close in form to those appearing on Gongxian bodhisattvas, but here there are no disks or ribbons on the shoulders. The carving is not as sharp, and the low-relief figure is more softly modeled than most Gongxian figures. Traces of pigment on the surface are a reminder that Chinese stone sculptures were brightly painted in their original form.

Published References
  • An Exhibition of Chinese Stone Sculpture. New York. cat. 8, pl. V.
  • Thomas Buomberger. The Baron's Share., November 1998. .
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 10, p. 19.
  • 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. 31, fig. 4.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Sculptures in the von der Keydt Collection. Zurich. p. 64.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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