Nanbokucho Period (1336-1392), 14th century
Wood sculpture with colored pigments and gold decoration; crystal inlays and metal fittings.
Heigh: 50 cm
The figure is carved in a standing position, wearing long draped robes and adorned with a necklace and bracelets of applied metal. The round face shows pendulous earlobes and open mouth, with inlaid crystal eyes and a jewel to the forehead. This antique standing figure combines both tension and elegance in a soft, feminine figure. The fluid, deeply undercut modeling of the drapery follows the sculptural style developed in Nara in the thirteenth century by sculptors of the Kei school, who specialized in naturalistic images with dynamic poses accentuated by the treatment of the garments. This imposing figure, however, features a more decorative treatment of the robe and a heavy, solemn face, which suggest that it was carved in the fourteenth century. Originally holding something in his right hand, probably a small hourglass-shaped drum, this Bodhisattva was part of a large Raigō group. Paintings and, more rarely, groups of sculptures of this subject show Buddha Amida descending from the Pure Land Paradise to a dying person, whose soul will then be brought back to Paradise; twenty-five Bodhisattvas accompany Amida and they play a wide range of instruments. The most important antique sculptural Raigō group is at Byōdoin temple in Kyoto and one of its Bodhisattva holds a small drum in his hand instead of having it laced at the shoulder as common for larger drums; we can assume the same instrument was held in the right hand of our sculpture. This figure shows also an interesting and very rare feature: his mouth is open with exposed teeth and tongue; the Bodhisattva is singing while playing his instrument. A similar iconography can be seen in the Raigō triptych at Kōyasan, where all the fifteen playing Bodhisattva are painted with parted lips, while all others have the mouth closed.
Antique Buddhist sculpture for sale. Price on application. Please include item stock number: alt-723