Daoist Immortal Laozi, also identifiable as Celestial Worthy of Primordial Beginning, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), dated 1438
Chen Yanqing (Chinese, active 15th century)
Gilt brass, lost–wax cast; H. 7 1/2 in. (19 cm), W. 4 3/4 in. (12 cm), D. 2 3/4 in. (7 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1997 (1997.139)
This superbly crafted gilt-brass sculpture, dated to 1438, was made using the lost-wax method of casting and then gilded, and was probably originally part of a set. The figure may be identified by the magical hand gesture—an imitation of a Buddhist mudra—as one of the most important deities in the Daoist pantheon: the Celestial Worthy of the Primordial Beginning, one of the Three Purities (Sanqing). Textual accounts of the Three Purities reach back as far as the Tang dynasty (618–906).