Chinese Wooden Guanyin Figure, 1200 - 1500

Value (2012) | $20,000 Insurance

This is a Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. And she's sitting on some lotus leaves. This came into the family when my parents bought a house in Hawaii. The house was fully furnished with antiques and furniture and whatever.

One of the things that's interesting about this is the face-- the kind of pinched, narrow face, the downcast eyes, the aquiline nose, the pursed lips. The mouth is very small and tight, which is not typically characteristic of things you would find in the Ming Dynasty. The other element that I find interesting is the crown, and you notice that this is covered with small, little jeweled ornaments-- pearls, basically. And that those are mimicked here at the necklace on the open chest. And that is a kind of tiered pearl necklace, and that's also something you do get in the Ming Dynasty, but you also get from a slightly earlier period. So with sculpture, we're looking at the way the robes fall, the very sharp lines of these robes as it falls over the body and it kind of cascades over the hands. You'll notice that there's an old repair here. This iron repair. And on the front, the upright leaves of the lotus are very sharp and crisp, and they're actually overlarge. Those are things that are kind of indicative, to me, that this was likely made in a more provincial area. If you look at the face, you see the discoloration, the darkness. That is from incense. Many, many years of incense swirling around the head.

I see.

Once this was brilliantly painted, bright colors, probably heightened with gold. And what we're looking at is that core surface. So we have very few pigments that are remaining, but we do see some. We see traces of red here. We see some green up here at the top, bits of ochre, and then the bare wood. Now, the wood is a type of wood that's called nanmu, and it was chosen because it's a very durable, stable wood that doesn't change shape, and it's also resistant to decay. It's always nice to be able to pinpoint a date. Sometimes it's hard to do. So this is one of those cases. It displays characteristics, I think, of a period called the Liao Dynasty, which was 907 to 1125.


Which precedes the Ming. The Ming is 1368 to 1644. And I'm inclined to believe that it could easily be from that period. But even if it isn't, it's displaying many of those characteristics. In terms of an insurance figure, I would feel pretty comfortable with about $20,000.


Appraisal Details

Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Appraised value (2012)
$20,000 Insurance
Boston, MA (June 09, 2012)
Ming Dynasty
Carving, Figure

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