China, Tang dynasty, late 7th–8th century; gilt leaded bronze, piece-mold cast; H. 9 1/6 in.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1933, 33.91, photo: www.metmuseum.org.
China, Hebei Province, Quyang, Northern Wei dynasty, 453; bronze with gilding; Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1909.266.
This work, which exemplifies the Northern Wei style (386–535), predates the sculpture on the left by several centuries. The earlier figure, although somewhat squat and two-dimensional, has characteristic Indic attributes: lotus bud over his right shoulder, bodhisattva ornaments, and upswept hair. The Tang dynasty statue departs more dramatically from these precedents. Calligraphic curves encircle the bodhisattva’s sinuous, elongated body, forming a complex arrangement of void spaces. In comparing these two examples, we can see an evolving stylistic and iconographic transformation in the Chinese Avalokiteshvara.