VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
1931.48.8
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This statue is especially striking and intriguing in appearance. In the simplest of all his manifestations, but in his full splendour of adornment, Avalokiteshvara sits in the lotus position “white as reeds in autumn” – holding a lotus flower in his left hand, while the right hand betokens his generosity.

History of the Object
The figure represented has eleven heads and eight arms. Nine of its faces are vertically arranged in threes. The tenth looks very wrathful and the eleventh, topping the “facial pyramid”, is full of serenity. This statue represents one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who personifies compassion for all living beings and a determination to deliver them from ignorance and suffering. His ability to see and reach them wherever they may be is expressed by the statue’s eleven faces and eight arms. In his eight hands he holds a rosary, an eight-spoked wheel symbolising the doctrine of Buddha, a lotus flower, a bow and arrow, and an ewer of water. Two hands are clasped in front of him by way of greeting, and his lower right hand indicates his generosity.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
metal 
Measurements
Height 47 cm  
Creator name
unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China; Tibet 
Geography
China; Tibet 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th century 
Function
worship 
Acquisition
Sven Hedin, the famous Swedish explorer, whose early expeditions were undertaken single-handed or with just a few native companions, organised his last great expedition, between 1927 and 1935, as a major research project. His many European and Chinese assistants included Gösta Montell, who in the late 1920s was on the staff of the Ethnography Department of the Gothenburg Museum. On his travels in China as Sven Hedin’s expert adviser on purchase of “Ethnographica”, he collected large quantities of material for the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm. On the instructions of Erland Nordenskiöld, his teacher, Montell also dispatched a large collection of Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian artefacts to Gothenburg, including a number of Buddhist statues and paintings. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Museum of World Culture, Sweden 
Museum
Museum of World Culture 
Credit line
 

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