The LACMA Asian and Middle Eastern Art page contains 59 images from the
Pharaohs of the Sun exhibit, reliefs from the Palace of Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal,
Sculptures, Vases and other objects from ancient China, and three ringers from Mexico.

Shooting art in museums can often be quite challenging. The light is often low or mixed,
shutter speeds are invariably low, and no tripods or other support devices are allowed,
so all shots in museums must be hand-held. Many of these images were taken at what
could only be described as ridiculously low shutter speeds. Those who have tried can
imagine that getting a clean shot hand-held at 1/4 to 1/20 second is inconsistent. In
several of the images below, I have noted the shutter speed required for the shot.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art Index

Assorted Art: Sculptures, Paintings and Decorative Art
Asian and Middle Eastern Art and the Pharaohs of the Sun
LACMA Sculpture Garden: Rodin, Bourdelle and Kolbe
Exteriors: Architecture, Wildlife and La Brea Tar Pits


Amenhotep IV Akhenaten 4505c

—  Pharaohs of the Sun Exhibit  —

The Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen exhibition brought together over 250 objects from museums all over the world which defined the period near the end of the 18th Dynasty when Pharaoh Amenhotep IV established a heretical religion based on the sun disc Aten. The 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom (sometimes called the Thutmosid Dynasty due to the four kings called Thutmose (Thoth bore him), is the best known of all of the ancient Egyptian dynasties. The reign of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III is considered as the high point of the dynasty, with extensive building programs, and he may have co-ruled with his son Amenhotep IV for up to 12 years. After his father’s death, in the fifth year of his reign Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten and established a new religion, abandoning the traditional polytheistic religion and establishing a new paradigm where the Aten was the primary god and the other gods were worshipped to a far lesser degree. During Akhenaten’s rule, the Pharaoh moved the capital from the Amen stronghold at Thebes to Akhetaten (Amarna), which was abandoned after his death. Amen (or Amun) was the king of the gods and the patron god of Thebes in the pre-Amarna polytheistic Egyptian religion.

The Amarna period is also noted for the Amarna style of art, with a sense of movement and activity in images, and especially for the exaggerated portrayal of the human body. Akhenaten was often depicted with large hips and thighs, prominent breasts, a distended stomach, and slender arms and calves. In the early part of the Amarna period the distortion of figures was extreme, with very elongated faces. Tomb decorations were also different from other eras, with an absence of gods and goddesses other than the Aten (sun disc). Egyptian art is known for stylistic homogeneity over its 3500 year history, except for the Amarna period.


Tutankhamen 4503
1/8 second

While I cannot seem to find any information on this statue, it appears to be of Tutankhamen in a style
reminiscent of statues of Amenhotep III, with striped Nemes headdress and uraeus (a rearing cobra).
The statue also features a ceremonial false beard that widens towards the bottom, a god-like attribute.


Amenhotep IV Akhenaten 4504
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Amenhotep IV Akhenaten 4505
1/10 second

Colossal Statue of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) with Nemes and Double Crown
Karnak, Gempaaten, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten, 1353-1336 BC

Numerous colossal statues of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) lined the colonnade of the king’s temple to the Aten at East Karnak. Here, depicted with the elongated face, hollowed eyes and long chin of the Amarna style, he wears the Pschent (double crown) over a Nemes headdress with a uraeus (a rearing, upright cobra). He carries a staff or flail and a heqa-scepter (crook), and is depicted wearing a long, narrow ceremonial false beard, a divine attribute that emphasized the Pharaoh’s god-like qualities.


Balustrade Fragment Akhenaten Nefertiti 4506

Decorated Balustrade Fragment from the Great Palace at Amarna
Dynasty 18, Reign of Akhenaten, 1353-1336 BC, crystalline limestone

On this balustrade fragment from the right side of the ramp at the Great Palace of Amarna, Akhenaten and Nefertiti pray under the rays of the Aten (Sun), offering a libation to the god. Behind Nefertiti, their oldest daughter Meretaten shakes a sistrum (cultic rattle). The figures are extremely distorted in the style of the early Amarna period. Akhenaten has an elongated skull, protruding chin, a long thin neck, half-closed eyes, thin arms and legs, and a rounded breast and heavy hips and thighs. He wears the Hedjet (the white crown of pharonic Upper Egypt) with a scarf, and on his chest are royal cartouches with the names of Aten. He wears a knee-length pleated kilt. Nefertiti wears a Khat headdress and a long pleated transparent dress, open in the front to reveal her body. Princess Meretaten wears a similar dress, but her hair is worn in a side-lock.


Akhenaten 4507
1/13 second

Akhenaten, Dynasty 18, Reign of Akhenaten, 1353-1336 BC, yellow stone

This yellow stone statue of Akhenaten from the Louvre is in the mature Amarna style. Note the prominent breasts,
with two rolls of fat below, and the soft, distended stomach, but with a less extreme distortion of the facial features.


Akhenaten 4508


Akhenaten 4509

This figure was a part of a seated pair (dyad) depicting the Pharaoh with his wife or mother (Nefertiti or Tiye). Akhenaten is depicted sitting on a cushion, wearing the royal Nemes headdress with uraeus (rearing, upright cobra), and holding a crook and flail in one hand. A bull’s tail is attached to the kilt. These features, along with the pierced ears, the enlarged soft stomach, and the lunate Amarna navel are shown on images of royalty from the reign of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) up to the beginning of the reign of Horemheb. The buckle of the kilt is not inscribed, but this statue is usually identified as Akhenaten.


Figures Stela Amarna 4512

1. Seated Man in the Amarna style, Amarna, limestone;
2. Seated Man in the pre-Amarna style, Amarna, limestone
3. Two Men and a Boy, possibly from Gebelein, limestone;
4. Two Seated Men and Two Women, Amarna, limestone;
5. Statuette of Thoth and a Scribe, Amarna, steatite;
6. Statuette of a King in Blue Crown, Amarna, limestone;
7. Clasped Hands, Amarna, quartzite


Herdsman with Goat Food Preparation 4510

11. Herdsman with a Goat, Amarna, limestone;
10. Food Preparation, Great Palace at Amarna, limestone;
9.   Seated Man Eating, probably from Amarna, limestone;
8.   Servant bearing a Vessel, Amarna, wood unguent jar.

All of the reliefs and figures in these two images are from Dynasty 18, Reign of Akhenaten, 1353-1336 BC.

Free-standing private statuary was very rare at Amarna, and those that exist are well under life-size and appear to come from domestic contexts such as household shrines. The larger of the two non-royal figures (1) shows a man with the elongated facial features, the sinewy neck, pronounced collar bones, full breasts and distended belly typical of the Amarna period, and is seated in a relaxed pose in a high-backed New Kingdom chair. The smaller figure (2) sits stiffly upright on a cubic Old Kingdom chair and neither his facial features nor his body depict Amarna period style, but the lotus bud clasped at his chest is Amarna style. The Two Men and a Boy (3) form a family group united by the slab forming the back pillar. The composition of the group is based on Old and Middle Kingdom prototypes, but the style, with gestures inspired by small-scale representations of the royal family placed in household shrines suggests late Amarna-period artwork.

The votive stela with Two Seated Men and Two Women (4) depicts two mid- or lower-level bureaucrats who are receiving and sipping wine served by two women in flowing robes with scented ointment cones on their heads. Depictions of low-level officials are usually anonymous, but these are identified as Menena and Yaya being served by Tashety and Mery (the women).

The statuette of Thoth and a Scribe (5) is a votive statue from a household shrine depicting Thoth, the baboon-faced god of the moon, wisdom and writing with a seated scribe in the style which was quite popular during the reign of Amenhotep III.

The Statuette of a King (6) wearing a blue crown with a uraeus (rearing, upright cobra), a broadcollar necklace and a pleated kilt is shown with his feet together and his arms at his sides in a relatively unusual pose for a sculpture of a king. The sculpture, in the Amarna style with a heavy jaw, breasts, a protruding stomach and heavy hips, may depict Akhenaten or Tutankhamen.

The Clasped Hands (7) are from a composite sculpture, probably a family group. The nail beds are cut away and were inlaid.

The Servant bearing a Vessel (right image, lower right corner) was most likely an unguent jar.

The Food Preparation stela (10) from the Great Palace at Amarna shows two individuals, one seated, one crouched over a wide bowl, preparing food. The Herdsman with a Goat (11) shows a grazing long-horned goat and a balding bearded herdsman carrying a staff and has a stick with a jar attached to the end resting over his shoulder.


Stela Amenhotep III Musicians 4511

Stela featuring Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, Dynasty 18, Reign of Akhenaten
1353-1336 BC, Amarna (house R.44.2, house of Panehesy), limestone

This stela from a domestic shrine is capped with a partial cornice and frieze of uraei (rearing, upright cobras), and depicts Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, the parents of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), seated on draped thrones before offering tables heaped with food and floral decorations. The scene is framed by elaborate bouquets and a frieze of grapes beneath the rays of the Aten (Sun). The Pharaoh Amenhotep II slumps in his chair with his stomach distended and his hand on Tiye’s shoulder, and is wearing a long pleated and fringed gown and the Khepresh (blue crown or war crown).

Relief of Female Musicians, Dynasty 18, Reign of Akhenaten
1353-1336 BC, Amarna (found at Hermopolis), limestone

This group of five female musicians in raised relief is part of a larger scene in sunken relief which could have represented the royal family. The musicians are playing a harp, lutes (shown with plectrums), and a lyre. The woman without an instrument (fourth from right) is probably a singer or pipe player. The elongated bodies with heavy hips and slightly bulging bellies are modeled in the late Amarna manner. While the women appear nude, they wore light pleated dresses which would have been painted on.


Amen and Tutankhamen 4518
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Amen and Tutankhamen 4513
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Amen and Tutankhamen, Karnak, Dynasty 18, Reign of Tutankhamen, 1332-1322 BC, granodiorite

Tutankhamen commissioned a number of statues of himself with Amen as a demonstration of his closeness with the deity. Amen is identified  by his two tall plumes, and holds a smaller statue of Tutankhamen in a gesture of protection. The statue was defaced by a later king (probably Horemheb), but it is still possible to see that Tutankhamen is dressed in the panther-skin garment of Amen’s highest priest which has two tiny cartouches on the skirt, identifying the figure. The matte surface of the god’s beard, plumes and collar suggest that they were originally covered with gold.

This statue was unearthed in 1857 during excavations at Karnak. Amen in human form is seated on a cubic base, wearing a pleated loincloth and corselet, divine beard and flat headdress topped with tall feathers, an evocation of his heavenly nature. Carefully detailed jewels (necklaces, armlets, and bracelets) decorate his neck and arms. The pharaoh's head is now missing, but the god's soft and feminine features, in keeping with the portraiture style of this dynasty, reproduce the pharaoh's face. The almond-shaped eyes, the slightly jutting chin and the full lips correspond exactly to the features of Tutankhamen's face as represented in other works. This monument suffered from the punishment inflicted on works produced during the el-Amarna period. Horemheb, a general who then became king, had reminders of this era destroyed: the head of the king, Akhenaten's heir, was therefore broken off.

In the background of the left image above is a statue of Amen with Formal Features, which was commissioned by Tutankhamen along with numerous others as part of his restoration of Amen’s power and prestige after the death of his father Akhenaten. This limestone statue from Deir el-Bahari depicts the god with a face similar to that of representations of Tutankhamen, but with a lean face and body which is far removed from the Amarna style.


Amen and Horemheb 4524
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Amen and Horemheb 4516
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Amen and Horemheb, Karnak, Luxor Temple cachette,
Dynasty 18, reign of Horemheb, 1319-1292 BC, diorite

This statue, based on the sculptural tradition established by Tutankhamen as seen above, shows Amen holding a smaller statue of Horemheb, either blessing him or affixing his crown. The entwined plants of Upper and Lower Egypt, which symbolize the unification of the country, decorate the sides of the god’s throne. Horemheb is identified on the base in front of his feet and on the back of the throne. The face of the god is much leaner and more aloof than that of Tutankhamen’s statue, and the god has a triangular body with well-defined pectoral muscles, a flat stomach, and a trim waist similar to earlier Thutmosid statues.

This statue was part of one of the most exciting finds in modern history, when beginning in January 1989, 26 statues ranging from Thutmose III (18th Dynasty) through Taharqa (25th Dynasty) were found at Luxor.


Maya and Meryt 4515
1/10 second

Maya and Meryt, Saqqara, Dynasty 18, reign of Horemheb, 1319-1292 BC, limestone

Maya was one of the highest officials during the reigns of Tutankhamen, Ay and Horemheb. The Overseer of the Treasury and Director of Works, he supervised repairs to Egypt’s temples, which suffered neglect and attacks during Akhenaten’s reign. Maya was also responsible for the burial of Tutankhamen. Maya’s tomb was one of the largest monuments in the necropolis at Saqqara, and demonstrated his ability to mobilize teams of excellent sculptors. This statue is one of the finest from the period, with a mixture of Amarna-style naturalism and a new monumental character, it depicts Maya seated along with his wife Meryt.


Maya and Meryt 4522
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Maya and Meryt 4519
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This statue has been displayed in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands since 1823. Maya’s tomb was partially excavated in 1843, but over time it was covered by sand and lost until it was rediscovered in 1986 after an expedition which began in 1975. The tomb is a slightly smaller version of the tomb which Maya prepared at Saqqara for Horemheb.


Yii Prophet of Amen 4525
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Block statue of Yii, Dahamsha (ancient Sumenu), Dynasty 18
reign of Tutankhamen (1332-1322 BC) or Ay (1322-1319 BC), indurated limestone

The block statue was developed by early 12th Dynasty artists, and depicted a seated figure (nearly always male) with his knees drawn up to his chest, with arms crossed and the body enveloped by a long cloak. The cloak, alluding to mummiform images of Osiris (the god of the dead), represents the deceased’s wishes to be reborn like Osiris after death. The seated attitude and crossed arms convey subservience to the god. Block statues enjoyed great popularity in the early 18th Dynasty, but only one Amarna example is known. They regained popularity after the Amarna period. This example represents Yii, the Second Prophet of Amen, First Prophet of Mut, King’s Scribe and Steward of the House of Queen Tiye in the House of Amen.


Deity Performing Ritual Purification 3194

Deity Performing Ritual Purification, Northern Iraq, Nimrud, 9th century BC, gypseous alabaster

A gypseous alabaster relief from the palace at Kalhu (Nimrud) of the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC) showing a winged deity holding a water vessel and a fir or pine cone or a spathe sponge to water the sacred tree. The winged deity wears bracelets with rosettes, arm-bands, a necklace and earrings, a long cloak and sandals. The spathe is held in the right hand, which symbolized masculinity in ancient Assyrian culture. The small bucket held holy water, symbolizing femininity, and the process of dipping the spathe with the masculine hand and sprinking the holy water representing femininity ensures the fertility of the trees. The beard with numerous curly locks was also an Assyrian symbol of fertility.  Note the horned headdress.


Deity Performing Ritual Purification 3178

Ashurnasirpal II was the third king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and was widely known as a ruthless conqueror. The wall reliefs on his grand palace at Kalhu or Calah (now Nimrud) depicted his military successes and numerous victims. Upon the completion of his palace at Calah in 879 BC, he held a 10 day banquet for 69,574 guests, but the palace was abandoned after a bit over acentury. The long Akkadian cuneiform inscription (known as Ashurnasirpal's "standard inscription" because it was repeated so frequently throughout the palace) mentions the king's prayer and his deeds in founding the city of Kalhu (Calah).


Deity Performing Ritual Purification 3197

These reliefs are part of a series of five 9th century BC Assyrian bas-reliefs which once decorated the inner walls of the northwest palace of Ashurnasirpal II. The site of ancient Calah or Kalhu (near Nimrud), located on the Tigris River in northern Iraq near Baghdad, was an ancient capital of Assyria probably founded in the thirteenth century BC. The city was developed under the reign of Ashurnasirpal II, who erected his great northwest palace on earlier ruins. Built of mud brick on stone foundations, the palace was embellished on its lower levels with a series of decorated slabs (from the upper Tigris quarries) that depicted the monarch's skill as a hunter/warrior, as a servant of the gods, and as a mighty king.


Eagle-Headed Deity 3185
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Eagle-Headed Deity, Northern Iraq, Nimrud, Neo-Assyrian Period (9th c. BC), gypseous alabaster

A gypseous alabaster relief from the palace at Calah (Nimrud) of the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC) showing an Eagle-headed deity holding a water vessel and a fir cone or spathe (palm bract) sponge to water the sacred tree. Generally, this deity (a variant of the apkallu) is described as Nisroch, the Assyrian agricultural god (Nisr = eagle), but some archaeological references list it as a form of Ashur, national god of Assyria and namesake of Ashurnasirpal.

Both the Eagle-headed deity and the Winged deity above have two knives carried tucked in their garments. Knives of this type were used since as early as the 12th century BC, and had hilts inlaid with bone, ivory, bronze or precious metal, and scabbards were often decorated with the heads of birds.


Eagle-Headed Deity 3187 LG
1/20 second

A 1313 x 2100 pixel image of the upper central detail of the Eagle-headed deity relief.

This deity is a variant of the apkallu, a protective deity who warded off evil, and in this case is performing a ritual purification of a stylized tree which represented the date palm tree. The purification is intended to protect the tree and by extension, the empire.

These reliefs from the palace are orthostats, stone slabs which covered the lower part of a wall of unbaked brick. Though the use of such slabs is known from 2nd-millennium BC Northern Syria and neo-Hittite Turkey (early 1st millennium BC), it was in the reign of Ashurnasirpal II in the 9th century BC that this type of architectural decoration was adopted in Assyria. The orthostats protected the base of the wall, aiding the preservation of the monuments, served as a support for figurative decoration exalting the person of the king, and bore inscriptions which contributed to the propaganda function characteristic of neo-Assyrian art.


Alabaster Handstone Mexico 8056

Handstone, Mexico, Teotihuacan, Teotihuacán, 400-700, green alabaster

A Mano, or hand stone, was used to grind grain and other plant material and to separate clay from earthen debris. Usually, a mano or hand stone is smooth, and as alabaster is a relatively soft stone, this hand stone may have been a ceremonial object.

This object and the two below do not properly belong on an Asian and Middle Eastern Art page, but I included them here rather than on the Assorted Art page as the style did not match any of the other objects on the Assorted Art page.

Teotihuacan, or Teotihuacán, was a pre-Columbian city which is known today for its spectacular Mesoamerican pyramids. Founded between 200-100 BC by Zapotec, Mixtec and Maya peoples, it influenced the Classic Veracruz culture, whose major theme in art was human sacrifice.


Standing Figure Mexico 8050

Standing Male Figure, Mexico, Veracruz, Remojadas region, 600-900, slip-painted ceramic

This is an example of the Remojadas-style Classic Veracruz culture hand-modeled hollow Sonrientes figurine, with a smiling face, a triangular head and outstretched arms on a child-like body. The figure wears a loincloth, a pectoral band and necklace, and a headdress atop the triangular head. The figurine appears to have filed teeth, common in the Remojadas culture.


Skull with Mosaic Inlay 8060

Skull with Mosaic Inlay, Mexico, Oaxaca or Puebla, Mixtec or Zapotec, 1400-1521
Human skull with inlaid turquoise, jadeite, and spondylus shell, Mixteca-Puebla Style

This Mixteca-Puebla Mosaic Skull, inlaid with turquoise, jadeite, and shell, is thought to have been produced to venerate the Mixtec ancestors. Such ornate tributes displayed the wealth of the commissioner, and highlighted the exchange of luxury goods between Mexico and the Puebloan region of New Mexico, where the turquoise originated. This mosaic skull is one of about ten similar artifacts preserved in private collections and museums in North America and Europe. Based upon the only mosaic skull which was found in an archaeological context (tomb 7 in Monte Albán), the original mosaic probably covered the entire skull. Some researchers believe that the unprovenanced skulls were recreated in modern times based upon the Monte Albán skull.


Zhou Bronze Bell 8048

Bell (Zhong) with Dragons and Spirals, China, probably Shaanxi Province,
Late Western Zhou dynasty, c. 850-771 BC, cast bronze

The Zhou dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history (c. 1046-256 BC), but actual political and military control of China by the dynasty lasted only until 771 BC, in the period known as the Western Zhou. This period is considered to be the zenith of Chinese bronze-ware. The zhong is a long, narrow bell with protruding nipples grouped in four sections of nine, each set of three separated by spirals. They were used in odd-numbered sets of graduated size and pitch to create melodies that accompanied rituals and entertainment. This type of zhong was called naozhong to differentiate it from the suspended type. It was either held by hand or placed on a seat with its mouth upward and struck with a mallet. As the bell has an almond-shaped cross-section, it produces two distinct tones when struck at the center or the side.


Lidded Cauldron Interlaced Dragons 8046

Lidded Ritual Food Cauldron (Ding) with Interlaced Dragons,
China, Shanxi Province, ancient state of Jin, Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty,
late Spring and Autumn period or early Warring States period, c. 500-450 BC, cast bronze

The ding, a three-legged ritual vessel whose origins predate the legends and cloudy early history of the Shang dynasty (about 1600-1023 BC), was used to hold food offered to ancestral spirits. The ding was also a ground ornament. Fantastic creatures, symbols, even written characters recording ritual procedures were cast into its surface. In its typical Shang form the ding was a sturdy, lidless vessel mounted on straight legs. Contact with other cultures introduced new elements in its shape and ornament as well as new uses. By the time of the Eastern Zhou dynasty (771-256 BC) the ding had acquired the refined form in which it appears here. It had also been secularized; although the Shang tradition of burying bronzes with the dead continued, they were also presented as state gifts to foreign rulers and preserved and handed down as symbols of family honor and status.

This ding is from a set that would include more vessels of different shapes and sizes. Called mingqi (spirit objects) such sets were used during burial rituals and ceremonies conducted for ancestors, and demonstrate the importance of ancestral worship in the early times of Chinese civilization.


Lidded Cauldron Interlaced Dragons 8045c

This ding is related stylistically to a cache of fine bronzes discovered near the village of Liyu (northern Shanxi province) in 1932. It exemplifies the high level of bronze casting attained by Eastern Zhou metalsmiths despite the anarchy and constant warfare that plagued the period. The animal forms of an earlier era have become finely stylized and abstracted; an interlace of zoomorphic and geometric elements covers the entire surface of the body and lid of the cauldron. The curvilinear pattern in an overlapping two-layer relief contains forms suggestive of rams, birds, and felines. Spirals, S-curves, triangles, and scales are composed in ribbonlike bands. On the "knee" of each cabriole leg is an inlaid animal mask, an image from earlier ding forms.


Thai Buddhist Guardian 4565


Avalokitesvara Guanyin 3160

Buddhist Guardian, Thailand, Sawankhalok, 16th century
stoneware with cream slip, underglaze brown painted decoration, and pale blue glaze

Seated Avalokiteshvara (Guan Yin), China, late Ming dynasty, c. 1550-1644
cast brass with gilding, lacquer, and pigments

Avalokiteshvara is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, and
is variably depicted as male or female in different cultures, and with different origin stories depending on the source.


Bodhisattva 4569


Buddha Shakyamuni 8040

I have been unable to find any information on either the Bodhisattva or the seated Buddha above, however...

The ornate decoration of this statue and the vase makes me think that this represents Avalokiteshvara (or Avalokiteśvara), the bodhisattva of compassion who is often depicted holding a lotus flower or a vase as this statue is holding in its left hand. If you look carefully you can see a seated, meditating Amitabha Buddha in the crown or headdress, which along with the ornate crown, jewels and garments would also identify this as Avalokiteshvara.

In China, Avalokiteshvara is represented in female form and is known as Guan Yin. Probably because of Guan Yin's great compassion, a quality traditionally considered feminine, most of the Guan Yin's statues since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) have appeared as female figures. In India, however, the bodhisattva is generally represented as a male figure. In Sanskrit, Avalokiteshvara means "the lord who looks upon the world with compassion". Translated into Chinese, the name is Guan Yin Guan = observe; Yin = all the sounds of the world (particularly the crying sounds of beings, verbal or mental, seeking help).

In her hands, Guan Yin may hold a willow branch, a vase with water or occasionally, a lotus flower. The willow branch is used to heal people's illnesses or bring fulfillment to their requests. The water (the dew of compassion) has the quality of removing suffering, purifying the defilements of our body, speech and mind, and lengthening life.

Shakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautama) the Historical Buddha, is often shown in a similar position to the sculpture above right.
Note the similarity of the hand and head between the statue above and the marble Shakyamuni shown immediately below.


Shakyamuni the Historical Buddha 3168

Probably Shakyamuni (Shijiamouni), the Historical Buddha, China
middle Tang dynasty, c. 700-800, carved marble with traces of paint and gilding

This Buddha has been part of LACMA’s Chinese art display since the 1940s as a long-term loan, until officially entering the museum’s permanent collection in 2007. With a serene face and gracefully proportioned body, the Buddha exemplifies the highest achievement of Buddhist art in China. This figure and pedestal are carved from a single piece of marble. During the Tang Dynasty, when this was made, marble was reserved for only the most important works of art. The surviving hand is in the “earth-touching” mudra. It demonstrates the Buddha calling the earth to witness his enlightenment. It’s likely the other hand was in the allaying “do not fear” reassurance mudra. The protuberance on his head symbolizes his wisdom and enlightenment.


Shakyamuni the Historical Buddha 3172


Shakyamuni the Historical Buddha 8041

Siddhartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, is generally said to have lived in the 5th century BC during the Mahajanapada era in India (although there are no written records of him from his lifetime or for several centuries thereafter). He was born as the son of an elected chieftain of the Shakya clan, and spent 29 years as a prince. He left his palace to meet his subjects and see the world outside his sheltered existence at age 29, and began a life as an ascetic. He attained enlightenment  while meditating under the Bodhi Tree, a large and very old Sacred Fig tree located in Bodh Gaya, India. For the remainder of his life, he traveled and taught philosophy, forming the Sangha, or company of Buddhist monks.


Shakyamuni the Historical Buddha 8042


Shakyamuni the Historical Buddha 8043c


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 4568
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Funerary Sculpture of a Double-Courtyard Residential Compound
China, probably Shanxi Province, middle Ming dynasty, c. 1450-1550
molded and modeled earthenware with white slip, pigments, and green glaze


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 4566
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Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 4567
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Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 7464

The three series of images were taken with different lenses and cameras on three separate visits.
The first group was shot from a high angle at 17mm. This group was shot from lower angles at 50mm.
The bottom group was taken with a different camera from a series of low and high angles at 28mm.


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 7466


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 7468


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 8032

Since before the historical period in ancient China, the afterlife was seen as an extension of worldy life, and funerary furniture, architecture, and objects such as figurines, mystical beasts and everyday items called mingqi (spirit objects) were placed in Chinese tombs to provide the deceased with the same material environment they knew in life, thus ensuring immortality. In some tombs, mingqi comprised a model of an entire village, and revealed details of how the people lived at the time.


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 8034


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 8037


Funerary Sculpture Residential Compound 8035

Detail of a ceramic Ming-period funerary sculpture of a double-courtyard residential compound.

Chinese ceramic sculpture has a history that stretches back more than seven thousand years. Among the most important genres of this art form are the many examples of funerary sculpture discovered in the tombs of ancient China. Figures of people, animals, and strange guardian figures, models of homes, farms and fields were buried with the deceased to serve and sustain them in the afterlife. The custom of producing sculptures as burial objects began in the Shang and the Zhou periods and flourished in the Qin, Han and post-Han dynasties.


Jade Lidded Jar 4557
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I have been unable to find information on this jade lidded jar.
This may be a blue jade tea jar, unguent jar, or condiment jar.


Jade Lidded Vase 4559
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Lidded Vase (Ping) with Buddhist Deities and Floral Scrolls
China, Late Qing dynasty, c. 1800-1911, abraded jade


Jade Lidded Vase 4556
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Lidded Vase (Ping) with Lion, Phoenixes, Felines, and Masks
China, Late Qing dynasty, c. 1800-1911, abraded jade

Jade (found in two forms: Nephrite and Jadeite) is a silicate metamorphic rock which has been used for hardstone carving since prehistoric times. Jadeite has about the same hardness as quartz. Nephrite is a bit softer, but is more resistant to breaking than jadeite. Nephrite is found in a creamy white form (mutton-fat jade) as well as a variety of green colors. Jadeite shows more color variations (including blue, lavender-mauve, pink and emerald green). This lidded vase is Dushan jadeite.

Jade carving has been an important material in goldsmithing since the age of prehistoric art, and still accounts for most of China's hardstone carving. One reason why carved-jade objects were (and are) so highly prized, is because the Chinese believe that jade represents purity, beauty, longevity, even immortality. In addition, jade carvers valued the stone for its glitter, translucent colours and shades. Since the time of the Majiabang, Liangzhu and Hongshan cultures (4700-2900 BC), most jade carvings have been made from nephrite or jadeite, although until the late 18th century Chinese jade objects were almost always carved out of nephrite. Jadeite has a similar hardness to quartz (nephrite is a little softer) but since both varieties are as hard as steel they cannot be cut or carved with metal tools. The traditional method of carving jade was to wear it away with carborundum sand and a soft tool (now carved with rotary tools with diamond bits). Historically, due to its rarity and technical difficulties of manufacture, the wearing and use of jade was restricted to tribal leaders, then Emperors and noblemen, and was most commonly used in the carving of ritual vessels, ceremonial utensils and other totemic objects, representing status and power.


Jade Lidded Vase 4558
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Lidded Vase (Ping) with Fish, Lobsters and Seashells
China, Late Qing dynasty, c. 1800-1911, abraded jade (left)

Lidded Vase (Ping) with Cricket, Persimmons, Squash, Vines, and Rosettes
China, Late Qing dynasty, c. 1800-1911, abraded jade (right)

Until the era of Qing Dynasty art, Chinese jade objects were made of nephrite (or bowenite), known as white jade, or Khotan. Then, around 1800, merchants began importing a vivid green variety of jadeite from Burma, known as Feicui, or Kingfisher Feathers Jade. This new stone quickly became the favourite of the Manchu court, although scholars and old-style aristocrats maintained a preference for the milky white jades made from nephrite. During the Qing period the production of jade utensils came to a peak, featuring items like jade cups, bowls, drinking vessels, and bottles, used mainly by royal and noble families.


Prunus Vase Bamboo and Plum Tree 4561
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Prunus Vase (Meiping) with Bamboo and Blossoming Plum Tree
China, Jiangxi Province, Jingdezhen, Chinese, Qing dynasty, Daoguang period, 1821-1850
wheel-thrown porcelain with clear glaze and overglaze painted enamel decoration (wucai)

A meiping (plum vase or prunus vase) is a type of Chinese vase traditionally used to display branches of plum blossoms. The meiping was first made of stoneware during the Tang dynasty and was originally used as a wine vessel, but since the Song dynasty it became popular as a plum vase. It has a narrow base, a wide body, a narrow neck, and a small opening.


Yuan Lacquer Dish Birds and Flowers 7463

Dish (Pan) with Birds and Flowers
China, Late Yuan dynasty, c. 1340-1368
Carved red lacquer on wood core

The Chinese had discovered as early as the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC) that the juice of the lac tree, a naturally occurring polymer, could be used for forming hard but lightweight vessels when built up in very thin layers through the repeated dipping of a core of carved wood, bamboo, or cloth. With the addition of pigments, most commonly red and black, it could also be used for painting and decorating the outer layers of these vessels. Coffins, chariots, furniture, and other lacquered objects were often found in Shang tombs, and lacquer was used to fix inlays of shell and coloured stone.

Being sticky, painted lacquer must be applied slowly with the brush, giving rise to prolonged motions and fluid, often elegantly curvilinear designs. Since lacquer is almost totally impervious to water, vessels and wine cups have been excavated in perfect condition from waterlogged graves. By the Warring States period (475–221 BC), lacquerwork had developed into a major industry, and being approximately 10 times more costly than their bronze equivalents, lacquer vessels came to rival bronzes as the most esteemed medium for providing offerings in ancestral ceremonies among the wealthy aristocracy.

While lacquer continued to be made in bolder versions of the undecorated Tang and Song shapes, notable advances in the Yuan dynasty included incising and engraving and filling the lines with gold leaf or silver powder. The most important innovation was the carving of pictorial designs, floral patterns, or dragons through a thick coating of red or, less frequently, black lacquer.


Qing Lacquer Box Spring 8026

Carved Polychrome Lacquer Shouchun baohe (Longevity and Spring Treasure Box)
China, Jiangning or Suzhou workshop, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong period, c. 1760
Cinnabar box, multi-layer polychrome lacquer

The cover of this circular cinnabar treasure box is deeply carved through multiple layers of polychrome lacquer with intricate designs. In the roundel on top, a Bowl of Precious Objects radiates red, blue and yellow rays which illuminate the large character Chun (Spring), in the center of which is a roundel enclosing the figure of Shoulao (god of longevity) and a deer in a landscape. Surrounding the central motif are a series of scrolling clouds and two five-clawed Imperial dragons, all on a wan-diaper ground. The rounded sides of the box are encircled by four barbed cartouches with various scenes of figures in a forested landscape.

The Bowl of Precious Objects contains the Flaming Pearl, coins and a branch of coral, an ingredient in the elixir of immortality. The dragon on the right with a spiked tail represents the Dragon of the East. The dragon on the left with a wispy tail represents the Dragon of the West. Both are five-clawed Long dragons which were only used for the Emperor by Imperial decree.


Qing Lacquer Box Spring 8026 clip

Lacquer carving is an extremely complex technique. According to the literature, ancient lacquer carving techniques originated in the Tang Dynasty, and through improvements in the Song, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties, achieved a very high level. Lacquer is applied to the surface of a container in multiple layers until it reached a certain thickness, and is then carved. One brilliant color lacquer product normally requires many highly trained artisans working for several years.

Notable for its meticulous carving and carefully composed design, this belongs to an important group of boxes offered as tribute to the Qianlong emperor. According to the Zaobanchu Archives of the Qing Imperial Household Department, on the 8th month of the 25th year of the Qianlong reign (1760), the Emperor was presented with twelve carved cinnabar lacquer shouchun baohe boxes by the eunuch Hu Shijie. The design adorning these boxes derives from Jiajing originals (1522-1566).


Qing Box God of Longevity 8027

Box (He) with the God of Longevity (Shoulao), the Chinese Character for Spring (Chun),
the Eight Buddhist Symbols (Bajixiang), and Cartouches Showing Figures in Landscapes
China, Middle Qing dynasty, c. 1700-1800, cast bronze with cloisonné enamel decoration

This is a finely decorated cloisonné enameled box with relief gilt-bronze appliqués on a turquoise ground. The relief elements were only used for the faces, allowing the artist to capture facial expressions in greater detail. The overall design is similar to the Shouchun baohe shown above, with a central roundel containing a Bowl of Precious Objects with the Flaming Pearl, coins and a branch of coral, an ingredient in the elixir of immortality. Multicolored rays radiate out of the Bowl, above which is a roundel with Shoulao (god of longevity) and his deer, flanked by the five-clawed Imperial Dragon of the East and Dragon of the West. The rounded sides of the box are encircled by four barbed cartouches, each vividly depicting different scenes with a scholar and boy engaged in various leisurely pursuits in landscape scenes filled with rockwork and lush vegetation including willow, bamboo, pine and paulownia. The cartouche panels are separated by objects of the babao (eight precious things), and in front is a coral branch. The heads of Shoulao and the figures are delicately modelled in relief as gilt-bronze appliqués. Boxes like this are rare.


Incense Burner with Floral Scrolls 8028

Incense Burner (Lu) in the Form of an Ancient Ritual Tripod (Liding) with Floral Scrolls
China, Middle Ming dynasty, c. 1450-1550, cast bronze with cloisonné enamel decoration

The term ‘cloisonné’ is derived from the French cloisons, ‘wires’ placed perpendicularly on the surface of an object of the same metal. Extremely fine wires bent according to the desired pattern are glued with baiji paste. After the pattern is filled with coloured enamel paste, the object is fired in a muffle kiln during which the enamel fuses onto the metal. The process is repeated after cooling, until the entire pattern is filled. Its surface is then polished with a pumice stone.

The cloisonné technique, believed to have been imported from Byzantium, was first used in the Yuan dynasty (14th century). The Chinese perfected the cloisonné enamel technique in the fifteenth century. By the time this incense burner was made, cloisonné was considered appropriate for imperial use, and many superb pieces were made for palaces and temples. Some of the vessel forms were borrowed from ancient Chinese bronzes, as in this ancient ritual tripod (liding).


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