Head of a Luohan

Sculpture of Asian man’s head, he is bald with detailed angular facial features
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Sculpture of Asian man’s head, he is bald with detailed angular facial features
  • Sculpture of Asian man’s head, he is bald with detailed angular facial features

Date:

Northern Song, Liao, or Jin dynasty, c. 11th century

Artist:

China

About this artwork

In traditional Buddhist belief, the luohan is a disciple who has attained enlightenment through intense personal effort. Beginning in the ninth century, the worship of luohan and their depiction in art evolved primarily in the context of the Chan (Zen), or “meditation,” sect of Buddhism. This head was created in the delicate technique of hollow dry lacquer. The artisan first soaked layers of coarse cloth in lacquer (a thick sap tapped from a sumac tree) and applied these to a clay core formed over an armature of wood or other material. After allowing the work to dry, he applied a thick layer of lacquer paste to create the basic shape of the sculpture and a thinner coat into which he carefully modeled the eyes, high cheekbones, and other facial features. After removing the core and supporting armature, he set colored beads behind the eyes to represent irises and pupils. Finally, he painted the surface and perhaps applied gilding. Although these surface finishes have disintegrated over the centuries, the sensitively executed facial features preserve the insightful expression of the luohan.

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Asian Art

Title

Head of a Luohan

Origin

China

Date

1001–1100

Medium

Hollow dry lacquer

Dimensions

28.6 × 18 × 20 cm (11 1/4 × 7 1/16 × 7 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of the Orientals

Reference Number

1928.259

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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