A limestone head of a Buddha

六至七世紀   佛頭像

The head is finely carved with heavy-lidded eyes gazing slightly downwards, above a straight nose and small full-lipped mouth. The cheeks are full and the chin is slightly protuberant. The ears are long and slender. The hair is carved into a profusion of “snail-shell” curls, each curl a neatly detailed rounded whorl, forming a line across the forehead and extending up and over the cranial bulge (usnisa). The stone is a fine-grained grey colour, with some inclusions and imperfections.

Priestley & Ferraro, 'Song Ceramics and Works of Art', November 2017, cat. no. 17

Perhaps the most noticeable element in many depictions of the Buddha is the way that the hair appears as a mass of “snail-shell” curls. The origin of this feature is the subject of much scholarly debate. Here it may just be noted that the Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who was to become the Buddha, cut off his hair when he renounced his royal life. For an extensive discussion, see Y. Krishan, The Buddha Image, Its Origin and Development. In China, depictions of the Buddha and his hair changed slowly over time. The mature “snail-shell” style appears around the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) and continues into the Tang dynasty (618-906), with various revivals thereafter.

The present head has unusually finely detailed curls, which taken together with the relatively plump cheeks, suggest a date between the Northern Qi and the early Tang dynasty. For a slightly earlier head, but showing most of the same features, see Masterpieces of Buddhist Statuary from Qingzhou City, p. 124. 

Dimensions: Height: 19 cm, 7 ½ inches

Date: 6th/7th century

Stock No. 2074

Price: On Request