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762. Guanyin Baiyi

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) c. 1700
Height: 14 cm

Provenance: Private Collection, United Kingdom

A fine soapstone carving of the white-robed Guanyin (baiyi) seated at ease. One leg hangs down, the other is tucked up, her bare feet just visible. With both hand, she holds a large lingzhi fungus as a scepter on her lap. by Her loosely falling hood, which covers her high top-knot, frames her downward cast merciful face. The flowing robes are incised with clouds and edged with a geometric wave pattern. The pale beige stone, has some reddish mottling and traces of black and gold colouring. Small religious carvings often had separate bases, such as a cushion or rockwork. This Guanyin has a hole underneath where it would have been pegged to the base.

This remarkable soapstone carving is part of a group of exquisitely carved small religious figures, which rarely bear signatures. Even though this work is unsigned, it is very reminiscent of the small devotional carvings by master carver Zhou Bin. His work and that of his studio, is characterised by fine carving, incised garment edges and the rendering of the long pointed earlobes. His subjects are carefully chosen, each piece clearly conceived as an individual work of art, carved with great attention to detail.

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