Miniature sarcophagus as a Buddhist reliquary

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty, 618-907
Gray limestone
H x W x D: 32.7 x 21.8 x 48.5 cm (12 7/8 x 8 9/16 x 19 1/8 in)
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

Buddhist sculpture

bird, Buddhism, China, dragon, flower, funerary, Tang dynasty (618 - 907), tiger, tortoise

From at least 1936 to 1940
C. T. Loo & Co., New York, from at least June 1936 [1]

From 1940 to 1951
Eduard von der Heydt (1882-1964), Ascona, Switzerland, purchased from C. T. Loo on September 23, 1940 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. MT 516: "Stone sarcophagus, top decorated with finely incised floral designs. Sides with animals, the emblems of the four seasons. Tang," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. According to an annotation on the stockcard, the object was lent to Rhode Island School of Design, Providence for consideration of purchase in June 1936.

[2] See C. T. Loo's stockcard cited in note 1 which provides the date of acquisition as September 23, 1940. 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 object is documented under an inventory card no. 40113, copy in object file. The inventory card cites two acquisition dates: July 1940 and October 1, 1940.

[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 object was accessioned under no. 448097, see "Smithsonian Office of Anthropology Accession Data," copy in object file.

[5] The sarcophagus 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. The sarcophagus was accessioned to the Freer Gallery Study Collection under no. FSC-S-12 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

Published References
  • An Exhibition of Chinese Stone Sculpture. New York. cat. 29, pl. XXII.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 13, p. 22.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Sculptures in the von der Keydt Collection. Zurich. p. 32.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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