Seated Bodhisattva

  • Late Heian period
  • 12c
  • Wood with gold leaf over lacquer
  • H-56.8
    Important Art Object
Catalogue Entry

Late Heian period, 12th century
Assembled wood with lacquer-applied gilding
Figure height, 56.8cm

A seated Bosatsu image complete with nimbus and pedestal. The name of this deity is hard to determine given the placement of the right hand palm-up above the lap with all fingers extended. The left hand probably held a water vase, the figure also has its hair drawn up into a topknot chignon, the forehead is banded by a crown support, and the upper body is covered with a johaku, while the lower body is wrapped in a kun drapery. The ten'ne draperies that hang from both shoulders layer over both feet to create a U-shaped curve, while the now-lost tips of this ten'ne drapery would have originally draped back across the arms and hung down the sides of the body.

Carved from hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood. The central core of the head and body is carved from a single block of wood. There is a split behind the ears which was used to hollow out the interior before the sections were dovetailed together. This type of construction is known as warihagi zukuri, or split-and-joined construction. Normally the area beneath the neck is also split and then dovetailed (warikubi or split neck), but this has not been done in this instance. Both arms (with additional dovetailing at elbow and wrist), the sides of the hips, and the leg sections have been dovetailed onto the central core. This kind of construction was common during the late Heian period with the spread of yosegi zukuri and warihagi zukuri techniques.

The image, when seen from full front, gives the impression of a slender body and long-faced physique. The long nose and the small eyes and mouth all give the face a completely calm demeanor, and the small pleats of the clothing are also shallowly carved. This is undoubtedly a late Heian period work, specifically from the final Heian period, the latter half of the 12th century.

The nimbus is a double nimbus (with two circular nimbus forms to back the head and body of the figure), and its surrounding edge is carved with relief carving of karakusa (vining plant) motifs. Seven gachirin (moon circles) are placed within this vining motif. The majority of these moon circles have flaked off, but paintings of seated Nyorai (Tathagata) figures can be confirmed in two of these moon circles. This nimbus was created during the Muromachi period, but it seems appropriate for the work, and it is not clear what connection, if any, exists between these moon circles and the Bosatsu image itself.
The pedestal includes (from the top) a lotus flower, an ue shikinasu, a keban, a shita shikinasu, an ukeza, and kamachi (two-tier), thus forming a six-layer lotus pedestal. However, this pedestal is a mixture of layers from different periods, and at the very least, the lotus flower and the keban were created during the same period as the image. While the ukeza is also from the same late Heian period, it is too small for this image and was transferred from a different image. The other sections are all from a slightly later period. SI