Komoku-ten, Guardian of the West, one of a set of four Shitenno (Guardian Figures)

Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, 1185-1333
Medium
Sculpture; wood and polychrome with gilt, crystal-inlaid eyes
Dimensions
H x W x D: 66 × 33 × 19 cm (26 × 13 × 7 1/2 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1976.12
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Sculpture
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
Buddhism, Japan, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Label

Komokuten (Virupaksa), Guardian of the West, is one of a set of four Shitenno (guardian figures). The four images would have been placed within a temple sanctuary protecting one or more centralized Buddhist images. They were created and positioned to be viewed frontally as a logical and dynamic composition. Here, Komoku-ten (west), holds a writing brush and sutra scroll. Each figure stands on a writhing demon, symbolizing dominance over any enemies of Buddhism.

Based on varied devotional settings, the four guardian figures hav been produced in many sizes, from more than double the size of a human, to the diminutive forms seen here, to even smaller. These lithe, animated figures are excellent examples of a hyperrealistic style that came to prominence in Japanese Buddhist sculpture in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Published References
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho [Japanese Art: Selections from Western Collections]. 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. vol. 8: pl. 65.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. The Freer Gallery of Art. Washington. p. 16.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 39b, p. 51.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 195, 210-211.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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