400–500s, Northern Wei dynasty (386–534)
Gift of Dr. Michael Sze
This triad stela dates from a period when Buddhist imagery had just started to develop a unique Chinese style. In the center isShakyamuni Buddha, flanked by the bodhisattvas Manjusri (in Chinese, Wenshu) and Samantabhadra (in Chinese, Puxian), a very popular grouping in China from the fifth to eighth centuries. Beginning in the fifth century, Buddhist art in China incorporated many local elements. Although the snail-shell curls in the hair were based on an Indian style, the Buddha’s facial expression and the drapery on this stela are different from earlier imitations of Gandharan styles.
Donor was contacted in June 2016 in an attempt to gather more information, and the DAM never received a response. No identifying characteristics or clues were discovered upon physical examination; without a response from the donor there was no way to move forward in terms of primary or secondary research.
Though no additional provenance information has been discovered, the museum can formally accession these objects (NAC 2007.6 - NAC 2007.9) under the updated 2013 AAMD guidelines, which state in Section III.F.3.a: "The AAMD recognizes that even after the most extensive research, many Works will lack a complete documented ownership history. Member museums may acquire such Works if: (3.a) The acquisition of the Work is by gift or bequest and the donor/testator signed prior to 2008 a promise to gift, a will, a trust, or other document setting forth her/his intent to donate of bequeath the work to the museum."
Once the objects are formally accessioned they will be posted to the AAMD Object Registry in accordance with the above guidelines, but because they were donated to the museum in 2007 there is no complication in formally bringing them into the permanent collection at this time. -CF