- THE COLLECTION
- THE SPIRIT OF THE GALLERY
Pair of statues in finely moulded polychrome wood paste. The faces and hands are coloured white, following tradition, and the clothes are red and green, colours which symbolised immortality in ancient China. The body language and the highly delicate expressions of the faces reflect a harmonious effigy in keeping with the Buddhist ideal. The elongated earlobes recall the heavy pendant earrings worn by Prince Siddhartha Gautama before he became Buddha. Each statue is standing barefoot, the body concealed by a long tunic embroidered at the neck. The arms, held at waist height, are enveloped in a large shawl whose sides seem to be caught by a breeze, giving an ethereal effect to the ensemble. One of the divinities carries a cup, the other a cloth. Very good state of preservation, despite some small chips in the wood and colouring, notably at foot level. An ancient decoration is missing from the top of the head.
These two statues of divinities are dressed in green and red, and they wear a long robe with embroidery around the neckline, with a large shawl made of lightweight silk which flutters in the wind. The invention of the silk by the Chinese dates back to the 3rd Mill. under the Neolithic Liangzhu culture. The Silk Road, named by the 19th century German geographer Von Richthofen, ran from modern-day Xi’an, as far as Antioch in Roman Syria. In fact, it had been mapped out as early as the 2nd century BC by a Han emissary sent to the West by the Emperor Wudi to find allies against the Huns. Only many centuries later did it become under the Tang an important trade route. The Romans discovered Chinese silk via the Greeks, who themselves bought it from the Parthians. But in Rome, only Emperors and women wore silk, whereas in China it was worn by anyone who could afford it. It was so valuable that it constituted a monetary standard, like gold in the West. In fact, the Emperor made use of it to pay his civil servants and to solve his diplomatic controversies. Under the Song, the sculpture made of wood pulp appears. Often polychromic it could reach a high degree of perfection, and as these two tall statues are demonstrating, they had also an excellent rendering of movements as well as colours. The incredibly vaporous clothes of these divinities reflect the customary dress of the coloured silk gauzes. It was also under this dynasty that Bodhisattva effigies were feminised. It has been discovered in ancient monasteries beautiful damasked and embroidered shawls dating from the 8th/10th centuries in very light silk gauze, destined for refined Bodhisattvas like these ones.