Daoist immortal

Gilded bronze
Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644)
H. 18 cm or 7 in



Beautiful Daoist statuette, dated from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in gilded bronze of almost 18 cm (or 7 in) in height, with a very refined treatment, figuring Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West. Keeping the secret of immortality and guardian of joy and happiness, she is one of the most important deities of the Daoist religion. The great care given to the details, the delicacy of the face, the sweetness of the patina testify to its undeniable quality.

Represented sitting, the goddess is wearing a long and voluminous robe with flared sleeves that fall to the feet in graphic folds. The chiseling reproduces with taste and finesse the rich embroidery of the garment and the magnificent jewellery. Its headdress, both grandiose and delicate, consists of three phoenixes with outstretched wings and raised feathers. A perfect symbol of eternity, this fabulous animal is often associated with the goddess as his messenger. Also, this headdress became the attribute of the Sovereign of the Clouds of Dawn. It is interesting to note that for a similar statuette preserved in the British Museum (inv 1908,0420.6), both identifications are considered.

However, a characteristic iconographic element confirms us the identity of Xiwangmu: she is holding with both hands the Peaches of Immortality. According to the legend, the goddess rules Mount Kunlun, the mountain-paradise. There she owns a famous orchard in which this auspicious fruit gives eternal life to the one who eats it. Important to the Chinese rulers, she would have offered these Peaches to Emperor Han Wudi, a fervent Daoist devotee.

The divinity was revered both among the people and among Chinese elites and the worship of Xiwangmu flourished considerably under the Han before expanding under the Ming and Qing dynasties. With its fascinating iconography and finesse of execution, it is not surprising that it was the property of a great American collector.


Provenance: E. Thaw collection, USA.