A carved ivory figure of Guanyin and child
The seated Guanyin is wearing long robes and a scarf billowing around her shoulders and head, holding a rosary in her right hand and a lotus leaf supporting a boy seated on a qilin in her left hand. The boy is grasping the beast’s horn with one hand and holding a book in the other. The ivory is patinated to a warm tone with brown-stained details.
8 cm high
Formerly in the König Collection, Cologne
Sold at Christie’s Amsterdam, 15 March 1984, lot no. 889
A Dutch private collection
There are many manifestations of Guanyin, including the popular Songzi (child-giving) Guanyin. Generally, the goddess is depicted standing or seated carrying or holding a child on her lap.
It is very rare to find an example of Guanyin and child where the boy is seated on a qilin. Other examples in ivory of this combination appear to be unknown. The symbolic meaning of a wish for offspring is reinforced by the presence of the qilin. This one-horned creature is also a symbol of good omen, for it appears only during the reign of a benevolent king. Spitting out a book of jade, the qilin appeared to the mother of Confucius when the sage was about to be born.