Curiosities, Antiquities, Art Treasure, Commodities: collecting Chinese deity figures in mid-nineteenth-century England

Louise Tythacott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper takes a particular period in the biographies of a set of Chinese Buddhist images - 1850s-1860s - in order to examine the different meanings bestowed upon them by antiquarian collectors. The set consists of five deity figures, the largest of which is a rare, almost life-size, bronze statue of the Goddess of Compassion, Guanyin, with twenty-two outstretched arms, dating to the early fifteenth century. The sculptures today are in the collections of the World Museum Liverpool, where three of them are exhibited in the World Cultures gallery. The deities were originally located in temples on the Chinese pilgrimage island of Putuo, and were removed from this sanctuary by a British soldier, Major William Edie, after the First Opium War (1839-42). Edie returned to England in 1850 and the following year placed the bronzes on display in the main avenue of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. Not long after this, the five moved into the cabinet of their next owner, a London-based gem dealer, Bram Hertz.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-71
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Museum Ethnography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

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