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A work made of wood with traces of polychromy.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of wood with traces of polychromy.


11th century



About this artwork

Earlier sculptures of this type were usually made from clay and lacquer, like the Chinese versions that inspired them. This example reflects a shift to carving in wood that took place in the Heian period (794–1185). The carving hints at the deity’s strong body beneath his armor, which still bears the traces of elaborate decoration: patterns of dragons and flowers in gold and bright colors.

This figure represents Bishamon, the chief of the four guardian devas (or shitennō) who protect the four cardinal directions in a Buddhist sanctuary. Originally an Indian folk deity, and later adopted by Buddhism, Bishamon was believed to ward off harmful influences from the north. The sculpture once held a miniature reliquary in his left hand and a spear in his right, symbolizing his duty to defend Buddhist law.


On View, Gallery 102


Arts of Asia




Japan (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Wood with traces of polychromy


Approx.: H.: 135 cm (53 3/16 in.); H.: 134 cm (52 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Robert Allerton Endowment

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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