The dry lacquer sculpture constructed and carved as a thin layer removed from over a wooden mandrel is used to obtain figures of high naturalism in the lines and in the expression of the face. The lightness of the piece allows an easy transport in procession but the difficulty of execution has limited the production and the surviving pieces are of the greatest rarity.
Two larger-than-life heads made with an identical technique were certainly produced in the same workshop for the same religious use, perhaps at the time of the Taoist emperor Xuanzong whose reign started 1300 years ago and lasted more than 40 years. The fleshy faces have an obvious similarity although the bodhisattva looks younger.
The figure of Buddha, 46 cm high, was sold for HK $ 40.4M including premium by Sotheby's on October 8, 2013 over a lower estimate of HK $ 20M.
The figure of Avalokiteshvara is 43 cm high including a tall bun. It is estimated HK $ 18M for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 4, lot 3015.
Virtually forgotten in China after its very short period discussed above, the technique of dry lacquer was exported to Japan at the time of the persecutions of the later Tang against Buddhism.
SOLD for HK$ 21.7M including premium