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Bodhisattvas descending from paradise (section from the Descent of the Buddha Amitabha), part of a triptych
Place of Origin: Japan
Date: approx. 1300
Historical Period: Kamakura period (1185-1333)
Object Name: Hanging scroll
Materials: Ink, colors and gold on silk
Dimensions: Mount: 31 3/4 × 34 1/2 in (80.6 cm × 87.6 cm) Image: 40 3/4 × 22 15/16 in (103.5 cm × 58.3 cm) O/A: 84 1/2 × 31 3/4 in (214.6 cm × 80.6 cm)
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Japanese Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: B60D34+
On Display: No

Description

Label:

This painting would originally have been produced as the right-hand work in a set of three scrolls that represented the descent from heaven to earth of the Buddha Amitabha (Japanese: Amida) and his retinue. As is typical in works known as raigozu (illustration of Amida and his retinue descending), the central and left-hand scrolls (which are missing) respectively would have depicted Amida and thirteen other bodhisattvas, all descending on clouds, as are the figures seen in this right-hand scroll.

Raigozu illustrate the religious belief that Amida and his bodhisattvas will greet dying devotees and guide them to the Amida's Western Paradise. Introduced in the ninth century, the story of the descent of Amida (raigo) was popularized in the following centuries by the Pure Land school, one of the major forms of Buddhism in Japan. As belief in this story spread, raigo became a favorite subject for artists. Most of the bodhisattvas shown here are bejeweled and crowned, and are playing various drums, flutes, strings, and other musical instruments. The twelfth figure (upper left) is also a bodhisattva but is shown in monks' robes. The figures were delineated in delicate lines, and their garments were executed using the painstaking technique of cutting and pasting gold leaf (kirikane). Stylistic features of this painting suggest it was made during the Kamakura period.


More Information

Exhibition History: "Masterpieces of Oriental Art from the Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco", Kyoto National Museum, 10/17/1995 - 11/26/1995

"Hidden Gold: Mining its Meaning in Asian Art", Asian Art Museum, March 4, 2016-May 8, 2016
Additional Label:

On this Japanese painting, a group of bodhisattvas descends to earth on golden clouds in order to greet dying devotees. They have arrived to transport the deceased to the western Pure Land, called the “Place of Bliss” (Sukhavati). However, the Buddha Amitabha, whose name translates as “infinite light,” and who presides over the Place of Bliss, cannot be seen. Why? Because this painting would originally have been produced as the righthand work in a set of three scrolls; the central and lefthand scrolls—which are missing—would have depicted Amitabha and thirteen other bodhisattvas, all descending on clouds.

The elegant patterns on the bodhisattvas’ robes were made using the kirikane technique, which capitalizes on a key physical property of gold: its superb malleability. In this technique, thin sheets of gold leaf are cut and applied to the painting surface in intricate geometric patterns.

The sumptuous effect of the gold on the dark-blue ground is a characteristic of many Buddhist paintings of the period. This effect evokes the complementary relationship between emptiness (blue ground) and appearance (gold leaf). Thus does this painting manifest a philosophical concept in visual form.

(Label from Exhibition Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art)


Label:

This painting would originally have been produced as the right-hand work in a set of three scrolls that represented the descent from heaven to earth of the Buddha Amitabha (Japanese: Amida) and his retinue. As is typical in works known as raigozu (illustration of Amida and his retinue descending), the central and left-hand scrolls (which are missing) respectively would have depicted Amida and thirteen other bodhisattvas, all descending on clouds, as are the figures seen in this right-hand scroll.

Raigozu illustrate the religious belief that Amida and his bodhisattvas will greet dying devotees and guide them to the Amida's Western Paradise. Introduced in the ninth century, the story of the descent of Amida (raigo) was popularized in the following centuries by the Pure Land school, one of the major forms of Buddhism in Japan. As belief in this story spread, raigo became a favorite subject for artists. Most of the bodhisattvas shown here are bejeweled and crowned, and are playing various drums, flutes, strings, and other musical instruments. The twelfth figure (upper left) is also a bodhisattva but is shown in monks' robes. The figures were delineated in delicate lines, and their garments were executed using the painstaking technique of cutting and pasting gold leaf (kirikane). Stylistic features of this painting suggest it was made during the Kamakura period.


Exhibition History: "Masterpieces of Oriental Art from the Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco", Kyoto National Museum, 10/17/1995 - 11/26/1995

"Hidden Gold: Mining its Meaning in Asian Art", Asian Art Museum, March 4, 2016-May 8, 2016
Expanded Label:

On this Japanese painting, a group of bodhisattvas descends to earth on golden clouds in order to greet dying devotees. They have arrived to transport the deceased to the western Pure Land, called the “Place of Bliss” (Sukhavati). However, the Buddha Amitabha, whose name translates as “infinite light,” and who presides over the Place of Bliss, cannot be seen. Why? Because this painting would originally have been produced as the righthand work in a set of three scrolls; the central and lefthand scrolls—which are missing—would have depicted Amitabha and thirteen other bodhisattvas, all descending on clouds.

The elegant patterns on the bodhisattvas’ robes were made using the kirikane technique, which capitalizes on a key physical property of gold: its superb malleability. In this technique, thin sheets of gold leaf are cut and applied to the painting surface in intricate geometric patterns.

The sumptuous effect of the gold on the dark-blue ground is a characteristic of many Buddhist paintings of the period. This effect evokes the complementary relationship between emptiness (blue ground) and appearance (gold leaf). Thus does this painting manifest a philosophical concept in visual form.

(Label from Exhibition Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art)