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AUA Oriental Art

A Heavenly Being Carved Limestone Stele with Extremely Rare 'Oolitic silica structure', Northern/Eastern Wei Dynasty(4-6th century)

A Heavenly Being Carved Limestone Stele with Extremely Rare 'Oolitic silica structure', Northern/Eastern Wei Dynasty(4-6th century)

Regular price $25,900.00 USD
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The small dots apparent on the surface of this stone stele are indicative of an oolitic silica structure or oolites formed in what is known as "Oolitic chert." This formation occurs gradually over the course of thousands to several hundred thousand years within the soil or sea. Similar structures are commonly found in ancient fossils or arrowheads. Ancient peoples chose certain types of stones for tool-making, preferring materials that were easier to work with and could be sharpened effectively. This predilection is believed to be the reason why oolitic silica structures are frequently found in ancient arrowheads.

The development of these oolitic silica structures is a very slow process involving the accumulation of siliceous layers around particulates. This phenomenon, where silica reacts with water to form layers around a nucleus, occurs under specific chemical and physical conditions. Typically, it takes thousands to hundreds of thousands of years for silica to gradually accumulate in layers through contact with moisture, a process that requires a precise harmony of many variables, including chemical conditions, temperature, pressure, pH, and biological activity.

It is known that no other stele with such a silica structure has been identified to date, serving not only as evidence of its authenticity but also significantly enhancing the rarity of this piece.

This stele appears to be a stone sculpture of an apsara, a celestial nymph from Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Despite its fragmentary state, the sculpture conveys grace and movement. The apsara is captured in a dynamic pose, perhaps once part of a larger tableau, playing a flute-like instrument. 

The black stand was made in Hong Kong at the time of the acquisition.

Date : Northern Wei/Eastern Wei Dynasty(386–550)
Size : 22cm (Height) x 16cm(diameter)
Condition : Good (oolites dots on surface)
Provenance : Acquired in late 1990s from Hongkong
Reference : 
1) Sotheby's New York 20 March 2018 - Jingyatang: Treasures Of Chinese Buddhist Sculpture - Lot 202

(Price realised : 1,335,000 USD / Type : Related)

2) The MET - Accession Number: 19.16

3) Art Gallery NSW - Accession number 128.1988

4) Sotheby's New York 19 March 2007 - Fine Chinese Ceramics And Works Of Art, Including Property From The Collection Of The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York 

(Price range : 30,000 USD-40,000 USD / Type : Related)

* Northern Wei period Stone Statue

The Northern Wei period (386-534 CE) marks a significant era in Chinese history, particularly noted for its development of Buddhist art. The Northern Wei dynasty, established by the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei, a Turkic people, controlled Northern China and witnessed the widespread dissemination and flourishing of Buddhism within its territory.

Sculptures from the Northern Wei period predominantly depict Buddhist figures, including Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Arhats, reflecting the popularization of Buddhist faith. These stone sculptures were commonly found in temples, caves, and tombs, serving both religious and decorative purposes. The art of this era showcases a unique blend of Chinese stylistic elements with those of Indian and Central Asian Buddhist art, indicating the cultural and religious exchanges of the time.

Northern Wei sculptures are celebrated for their intricate craftsmanship and expressive detail. The rarity of Northern Wei sculptures lies in their historical significance as early examples of Buddhist art in China and their unique blend of Chinese and foreign artistic influences, making them invaluable for both cultural and academic studies. Their survival through centuries further adds to their scarcity and value.


* Apsara

Apsaras, celestial beings gracing the skies of ancient lore, are often heralds of good fortune and the embodiment of positive energy. They float through the heavens with such grace and beauty that their presence is said to uplift the spirit and inspire joy in the hearts of those who witness them.

In many Asian cultures, Apsaras are regarded as benevolent spirits of water and clouds, thought to bring nourishing rains to sustain life and fertility to the earth. Their dances, celestial melodies, and elegant movements are believed to soothe the soul and bring harmony to the world.

Depicted with ethereal elegance, Apsaras are not merely dancers; they are muses of creativity and the arts. Artists, musicians, and poets seek inspiration from these divine figures, hoping to capture a fragment of their heavenly artistry.

In the presence of Apsaras, it's said that one's luck is sure to turn for the better, as they are symbols of good fortune. Their likeness adorns temples and palaces, not only as decoration but as a wish for prosperity, success, and the positive flow of energy.

Embracing the qualities of Apsaras in one's life can be seen as an aspiration to live in harmony with the beauty of nature, the arts, and the joyful melodies of existence. They remind us of the delight found in the natural world and encourage us to appreciate the everyday dance of life with a light heart and hopeful spirit.

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