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Shrine with an Image of a Bodhisattva

Asian Art

Beginning in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Chinese artisans created many elaborate objects covered in cloisonné enamel for use in the imperial court. Cloisonné is a decorative technique of melting grains of colored glass within a gold wire framework to create a hard, colorful covering for metal objects.

An amalgam of Chinese and non-Chinese traditions can be found in this lavishly decorated Buddhist shrine with an image of a bodhisattva. The gilt bronze icon appears to have been made in Tibet, probably at an earlier date than the shrine. Although the tradition of enshrining an image beneath a canopy is of Indian origin, the form of this shrine appears to have been inspired by the baldacchino in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, created by the Italian artist Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680). The Qianlong emperor was interested in foreign artistic traditions and ordered his artists to incorporate Western motifs into many of his artistic commissions. The imperial dragons around the four ornate columns, however, are Chinese, as are the cloud forms and Buddhist motifs decorating the surface.
MEDIUM Shrine: Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy; Image: Copper with semiprecious stones
  • Place Made: China
  • DATES 1736-1795
    DYNASTY Qing Dynasty
    PERIOD Qianlong Era
    DIMENSIONS 25 1/4 x 14 3/8 x 10 5/8 in. (64.1 x 36.5 x 27 cm) Boddhisattva: 8 1/4 x 4 3/4 x 3 7/8 in. (21 x 12.1 x 9.8 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 09.520a-b
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Samuel P. Avery, Jr.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Shrine with an Image of a Bodhisattva, 1736-1795. Shrine: Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy; Image: Copper with semiprecious stones, 25 1/4 x 14 3/8 x 10 5/8 in. (64.1 x 36.5 x 27 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Samuel P. Avery, Jr., 09.520a-b. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 09.520a-b_detail1_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Large shrine, containing an image. The shrine rests on a rectangular pedestal with a spreading base, four low feet, a scalloped lower edge, sides that curve inwards to a narrow central band and a railing on top. Rising from the corners of the pedestal are four columns entwined with dragons amongst clouds, in relief, supporting an elaborate domed roof surmounted by a large knob. The edges of the roof spread upwards and outwards, are shaped to resemble ju li heads and have bells suspended from the scrolls which protrude from the corners. The image, a Lamaist Bodhisattva, sits cross-legged on a pedestal, and wears the usual skirt (dhota), sash, jeweled chains, arm bands, and crown. Behind is an arch decorated with a flame pattern in relief. Gilded bronze. The image is decorated with colored glass to simulate jewelry, and the shrine is decorated with cloisonné and champlevé enamels. On the pedestal are false gadroons and floral scrolls in low relief, with the ground filled with colored champlevé enamels, chiefly a dull turquoise. The floor of the pedestal is now similarly enameled a similar turquoise blue. The columns are similarly enameled. The tip of the knob, the ju li head shaped plaques on the roof, and the upward spreading eaves are decorated with lotus scrolls in red, white, pink, yellow, two shades of green and cobalt blue cloisonné enamels on the turquoise ground. The canopy like structure of the shrine is probably Indian in origin and the form of the shrine as a whole corresponds to a well known baldacchino in St. Peters, Rome, created in 1624-1633 by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). The imperial dragons around the four ornate columns, however, are typically Chinese. Between the base of the knob are double rows of false galdroons, all in relief. Condition: The surface of the enamel is slightly pitted and that of the champlevé is uneven.
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