A rare painted limestone figure of a monk

A rare painted limestone figure of a monk
A rare painted limestone figure of a monk


Late Tang dynasty
Height: 37 1/4 in, 94.6 cm

Standing on an integral waisted lotus plinth, he holds a precious jewel in his left hand and a rosary in his right. He wears robes that fall in close folds around his body and his bare feet protrude from the hems. His full face is well carved with strong brows over heavily lidded eyes, a small nose and full lips. The grey limestone bears traces of red, black, green and gold pigments.

Formerly in a Western private collection, and previously sold by Messrs Barrère, Paris.

Such youthful monks are often thought to be representations of Ananda, one of the chief disciples of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni.

A similar larger figure is illustrated in Leidy and Strahan, Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 18, pp. 102–03.

For other similar examples, see Sirén, Chinese and Japanese Sculptures and Paintings in the National Museum, Stockholm, pl. 25, also illustrated in China: Cultuur Vroeger en Nu, no. 342; and Sirén, Chinese Sculpture: From the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century, pl. 371B.

Note also related larger figures in Homage to Heaven, Homage to Earth: Chinese Treasures of the Royal Ontario Museum, no. 99, p. 182; and in Jacobsen, Appreciating China: Gifts from Ruth and Bruce Dayton, no. 28, p. 60. See Van Alphen, The Buddha in the Dragon Gate: Buddhist sculpture of the 5th–9th centuries from Longmen, China, fig. 19, p. 58, for a related figure of a monk in situ in the Jingshan Temple, Longmen Caves.