This magnificent sculpture comes from an important complex of mountainside Buddhist shrines hewn from the living rock at Xiangtangshan in Hebei province. It originally belonged to a full-length statue of a bodhisattva (an enlightened being who has postponed nirvana in order to help achieve salvation for others); the vase in the center of the crown may identify the figure as Mahāsthāmaprāpta, one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. The principal grottoes at Xiangtangshan were carved during the short-lived Northern Qi dynasty (550-77), which ruled much of northern China prior to the reunification of the country in 589 under the Sui (589-618).
Head of a Bodhisattva (Mahāsthāmaprāpta?)
Northern China, Northern Qi dynasty, 550-577.
Limestone with partial polychrome.
13 3/8 x 8 3/8 x 8 5/8 inches (340 x 212 x 219 mm)
Bequest of Belle da Costa Greene, 1949.
Belle da Costa Greene, New York.