Standing Bodhisattva

  • Late Heian period
  • 10c
  • Single wood-block construction
  • H-51.4
Catalogue Entry

Heian period, 10th century
Single wood-block construction
Figure height, 51.4cm

While the object originally held by this sculpture's left hand is now lost, if we infer that it was a flower vase (holding a lotus blossom), then this image can probably be considered an image of Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokites⇔vara). The right arm hangs straight down, and all of its fingers are extended, with its palm facing forward in a rare posture. This posture is, however, occasionally seen in old images from the early Heian period.

With the exceptions of the fronts of the feet and the foot tenons, the entire sculpture is carved from a single block of what appears to be hinoki (Japanese cypress). The free-floating areas that hang from both sides of the head and the areas of the arms and ten'ne draperies that are separated from the main body are not separate pieces of wood dovetailed onto a central structure, but rather parts of the single piece of wood. This kind of detailed carving is an example of work by a carver who has studied actual single-block construction images. There are examples of sandalwood images this large that are generally called danzo, or sandalwood images, and they were highly prized. Normally this kind of image would have boasted finely detailed surface carving, but there are many which have been lightly colored with a single color. As there were no natural sources of sandalwood in Japan, there were also instances where this kind of image was created from some substitute wood material. This image can thus be considered an image carved in hinoki as a substitute for a sandalwood image, and the white color that remains in the hollows of the surface carving suggests the remaining presence of a lightly applied coloring.

The round face, small nose, and relatively un-elongated mouth and eyes all give the image a calm appearance, and while as a rule this kind of small image is not comparable to ordinary-sized images, there is a sense of the style of the period of Kosho's activity at the end of the 10th century. SI