Budai Hesheng was our object of focus on Day 3 of The Small Museum. Having followed Hoa Hakananai’a‘s journey on Day 2, we thought we’d track Budai too. We didn’t have much to go on, we knew he came from Henan province in China, and at some point went to Shanghai. With some pro-Googling George found a chap called T. T. Woo who was probably responsible for the sale of Budai to the self-proclaimed ‘sea captain and art dealer’ John Sparks. It would have been great to have more time to dig about these individuals.
Quick Summary Metadata
He is glazed in the sancai (‘three colours’) palette, green (from copper), yellowy brown (from iron) and blue (from manganese and cobalt, which I can’t actually see).
Is he part of a larger traditional group of Eighteen ‘Luohan’? There are four in the UK, all dated 1484, signed by the same master craftsman Liu Zhen, and were dedicated by the same priest, Dao Ji. All were sold through the London dealer John Sparks.
Seated ‘Luohan’ in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow
Seated Guanyin in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Liverpool, National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside
Bodhidharma in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
He is from the Henan province in China
Currently displayed in Room 33, Ground Floor, British Museum
Made in 1486
Acquired by the British Museum in 1937
Height: 119.2 cm
Width: 65 cm
Depth: 41 cm
About John Sparks Ltd.
- John Sparks, sea captain and dealer in Japanese and Chinese art
- Lady Lever Gallery: Dealers and Collectors
- John Sparks and Pitt-Rivers correspondence
John Sparks (1854-1914) was known as a dealer who specialised in Chinese and Japanese antiquities and objets d’art. He had an early career as a merchant seaman, based in the Far East. There are references to him working at Messrs Dowdeswell 160, New Bond Street, London in 1888 in the catalogue of the second collection. He established the Japanese Fine Art Depot, Duke Street, Manchester Square, London in 1888 according to the webpages about pottery on the Liverpool Museum website. The firm finally closed down in 1991, still under the name of John Sparks.
Top image © Trustees of the British Museum
Seated Luohan © Glasgow Museums
Seated Guanyin © National Museums Liverpool
Bodhidharma © V&A Images
Let us know if you spot any clangers.