Amida (Amitabha)

citation

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.

Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, early 14th century
Medium
Wood with gold leaf
Dimensions
H x W x D (overall): 112.6 x 45.5 x 44.1 cm (44 5/16 x 17 15/16 x 17 3/8 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Harold P. Stern Memorial Fund and Charles Lang Freer Endowment in appreciation of Nancy Fessenden and Richard Danziger and their exemplary service to the Galleries as leaders of the Board of Trustees.
Accession Number
F2002.9a-f
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Sculpture
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
Amitabha Buddha, Buddhism, Japan, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), lotus, vitarka mudra, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

To 2002
James Freeman, Kyoto, to 2002

From 2002
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from James Freeman in 2002

Previous Owner(s)

James Freeman

Description

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.

Label

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.
  • pp. 64-65.
  • p. 93, fig.23.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum