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Antique Korean Bronze Buddha Statue
Vitarka and Varada Mudra
Paekche Kingdom late 7th century CE
H 15.5" (39cm.), W 6" (15cm.), D 6" (15cm.)
Condition: damage to fingers and chest

A supremely rare example of early Buddhist sculpture in Korea, the faith having arrived from China in the fourth century. Very few such sculptures remain in Korea or anywhere else, due to the ravages of centuries of unending warfare.

This bronze, with its childlike form and benevolent grace, strongly evokes the style of the few known extant works from the seventh century. Proportions are specific to the period, with the head rather large and the whole form balanced by the mass and height of the base. As well, the excellent heavy casting has bloomed a patina of great age, with mottled mineral deposits in green and dark umber and excrescenses of minerals and rust erupting on the surface and in the crevices, factors which further identify this statue as an authentic archaic Paekche bronze.

Korean Bronze Buddha
Private Collection

Characteristics unique to Paekche sculpture are clearly evident in this work. Paekche Buddhas are characterized by warm, human attributes. The small usnisa, the stately but relaxed body, the voluminous form beneath the thick robe, the straight falling hems of the robe, and the simple but refined rendering of the of the pedestal, are all definitely local traits of Paekche. The true uniqueness of a Paekche Buddha is in the unfathomable benevolent smile that graces its round pleasant face. That expression, often labeled the "Paekche smile," is considered distinct, and is present here as the essence of the expression of the Buddha. The rendering of the drape of the garment in wide concentric folds, as well as the general arrangement of the fabric with one end draped over a shoulder and hanging down the back accords with the representational trend of the seventh century and is distinctly different from that of sixth century when the style of Northern Wei predominated. The substantial and roundly modeled inverted-lotus pedestal with pointed petal ends resembles the Koguryo style, which also dates from the seventh century. By the eighth century, the International style was established, garments began to cling and swell in a tribute to the late Tang, and postures became more animated. The back of the piece has an opening resulting from the casting process, also typical of the technology of the time, and used for attaching a mandorla, or aureole, behind the head.

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Korean Bronze BuddhaKorean Bronze Buddha
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