James Freeman, Kyoto, to 2002
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from James Freeman in 2002
- Previous Owner(s)
With total form deliberately leaning forward and with hands comported in the "welcoming" mudra or gesture, this figure stands upon a stylized lotus blossom composed of multiple, delicately carved petals.
This sculpture represents Amida Buddha, the lord of the Western Paradise, descending to console and to welcome a recently deceased believer into the heavenly realm. The forward-tilting posture stresses the purpose of his mission. From the second half of the thirteenth century, a new, gradually discernable Buddhist sculptural style appeared in Japan. Its features are amply present in this figure: comparative realism in the rendering of garments and body parts, unified sculpture created from the assembly of multiple carved units, use of lacquer applied over wood and linen to achieve minute detail of parts, use of crystal insets for eyes and, most lavishly, application of complex patterns of gold leaf to indicate garment designs. This figure shares structural and stylistic features with the other Kamakura period (1185-1333) Buddhist sculptures displayed in this gallery.
Three documents associated with this sculpture are instructive as to dating, style and to speculation concerning provenance. The most recent of the documents, authored by Yamaoka Seibe, an early to mid-twentieth century Japanese collector and dealer, notes that in 1956 he retained a conservator to stabilize flaking found on the cut-gold garment patterns of the statue. The second document, authored by Kawabe Kinpei in 1890 describes his disassembling the sculpture, making "minor" repairs and discovering a document within the cavity of the sculpture, the third document, a sutra dedicated to the Empress Komyo (701-760) and dated to 741. Komyo was consort to the Emperor Shomu whose central achievement was to make Nara, with the construction of Todaiji and the great Buddha, a center of Asian Buddhism. In 741 a palace conspiracy drove Komyo and Shomu from Nara for a brief period. That a sutra would be dedicated to Komyo in that same year suggests a prayer requesting safety or a thanksgiving for restoration of power. At any rate, the date seems more than coincidental. The late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century documents remark that the sculpture was in the style of the Kei School.
- Published References
- James T. Ulak. A Decade of Remarkable Growth: Acquisitions by the Freer and Sackler Galleries. vol. 166 no. 548 London, 2007. p. 38.
- Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 64-65.
- Impressions: The Journal of the Japanese Art Society of America. no. 39 Lexington, Massachusetts, 2018. p. 93, fig.23.
- Collection Area(s)
- Japanese Art
- Web Resources
- Google Cultural Institute
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