Seated Bodhisattva

Seated wooden Buddha statue with with forefinger touching thumb
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Seated wooden Buddha statue with with forefinger touching thumb

Date:

c. 775 A.D.

Artist:

Japan

About this artwork

This rare and important sculpture represents a Buddhist bodhisattva, or bosatsu, an enlightened and compassionate being who postponed Buddhahood in order to help save others. Calm, stately, and full-bodied, the bosatsu is seated in a frontal, meditative pose; his gracefully held hands, raised midair, make a gesture of assurance. Buddhism, which originated in India with the teachings of the Buddha Sakyamuni, or Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-c. 483 B.C.), was named the official religion of Japan at the beginning of the eighth century by the Emperor Shomu (701-56). This small, finely crafted lacquer figure is the only Buddhist sculpture outside Japan that is firmly attributed to the influential sculpture workshop of Todai-ji, the largest and most prestigious of the great state-sponsored Buddhist temples built during the Nara period. This sculpture represents a dramatic shift in Japanese sculptural tradition—a move away from the expensive, time-consuming technique of using lacquer (a resin extracted from the sap of a tree) over a temporary clay core that, once removed, left a sculpture that was completely hollow except for perhaps a wood bracing system. Here a sculpted wood core is overlaid with lacquer-soaked cloth. The innovative sculptors at the Nara temple modeled the wet and pliable surface of the cloth to create fine details such as facial features and jewelry. Finally the sculpture was gilt; traces of gold remain on the bodhisattva’s face and chest.

On View

Asian Art, Gallery 104

Title

Seated Bodhisattva

Origin

Japan

Date

770 AD–780 AD

Medium

Wood core, dry lacquer, traces of gold leaf

Inscriptions

Nara period

Dimensions

61 × 43.2 × 32.3 cm (24 × 17 × 12 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Kate S. Buckingham Endowment

Reference Number

1962.356

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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