Vanderven Oriental Art

Guanyin - Godess of Mercy


A blanc de Chine porcelain figure of Guanynyin holding a child.


Provenance: Private Collection, The Netherlands


John Ayers, 'Chinese and Japanese Art in the Royal Collection of her Majesty the Queen', Vol I, London, 2016, p.50 nr. 44-45

Terese T. Bartholomew, 'Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art', San Francisco, 2006, p.64

Christiaan J.A. Jörg & Jan van Campen, 'Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam', Amsterdam / London 1997, p.245 nr. 282

Maria Penkala, 'Magic Blanc de Chine: a Guide for the Collector and Dealer', Schiedam, 1980, p.181

'The Burghley Porcelains, An Exhibition from The Burghley House Collection and Based on the 1688 Inventory and 1690 Devonshire Schedule', Exhibition Catalogue Japan Society, New York, 1986, p.90 nr.10

Pei 2004
Fang Jing Pei, 'Symbols and Rebuses in Chinese Art. Figures, Bugs, Beasts, and Flowers', Berkeley, 2004, p.94

Detail Description

A blanc de chine porcelain figure of Guanyin seated on a high rockwork base, holding a child on her lap. She has an elegant pose and serene expression, befitting the Goddess of Mercy. She wears loose robes, one bare foot peeping out from under her flowing garments. Her hair is in a top knot covered loosely by her mantle. Her right leg appears to be folded up and the other hanging down, in a pose known as Royal Ease (lalitasana). The child holds a lotus bud, forming a symbolic combination which can be read as ‘may you continuously give birth to distinguished sons’. The whole is thickly potted, with a hollow body which is unglazed on the inside. The outside is covered in a thick transparent glaze, typical of wares from Dehua.  

The bodhisattva Guanyin is generally depicted as a female in flowy white robes, peering downwards with an expression of purity and wisdom. She embodies the motherly virtues of compassion and mercy and was thought to have particular fertility granting powers. Holding a boy on her lap she is known as Guanyin songzi  送子观音 - the giver of children. In this manifestation she was the focus prayers for women wanting male offspring; which in China was considered vital for the continuation of the family lineage.

Guanyin is widely worshiped in Chinese culture and is depicted in many forms and sizes. These smaller scale figurines would have been useful for placing on the family house altar. But they were also a popular export product, probably for their striking resemblance to Christian images of the Madonna and Child.

A slightly smaller similar figure is in Porzellansammlung Dresden ( PO 8563 ). The Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore has an example with traces of lacquer ( 2002-00326). Other comparable examples are in the Rijksmuseum, ( AK-MAK 658) and Royal Collection Trust, UK which has several (RCIN58841.1-2).

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Guanyin - Godess of Mercy


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