Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan Exhibition Spotlight – Sculpture

Throughout the course of Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite works of art from the exhibition and providing a more in-depth look at some of these pieces.

This week, we’re featuring two pieces of sculpture from the collection:

Buddha at Birth

This rare sculpture from the 8th century describes the infant Buddha. According to tradition, the infant took seven steps from his mother, pointed to the heavens and declared he was venerable on both heaven and earth while under his feet lotus flowers bloomed. The sculpture describes a very young figure pointing to the heavens with his right hand and to the earth with his left hand; beneath his feet is a stylized representation of a lotus flower. Figures such as this were placed on display at festivals celebrating the Buddha’s birth on April 8. Then, it would have been surrounded by flowers and sweet tea poured over the figure. The latter possibly accounts for the surface colors seen today.  On loan from the Daiko-ji Temple, it is one of several Buddhist devotional figures and accessories which will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

Buddha at Birth
Nara Period, 8th Century
Cast bronze
Collection of Daiko-ji Temple
Courtesy of The Museum of Shiga Prefecture, Biwako-Bunkakan

Seated Senju Kannon

The ancient bronze shown above,Seated Senju Kannon, is on loan through the Kannon-ji Temple located on the shores of Lake Biwa in the center of the Shiga Prefecture. It represents the God of Mercy who, according to Buddhist beliefs, has the highest rank after the Buddha himself. The figure is described with multiple arms at his sides and multiple heads atop his head symbolizing a thousand armed and a thousand eyed deity capable of managing everything in the universe and able to save all situations in the world. A subject of great devotion, this deity also appears frequently in traditional paintings from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Careful observation of this bronze form reveals traces of gold leaf indicating the sculpture was at one time completely gilded. This is another of the several Buddhist devotional figures and accessories that will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

Seated Senju Kannon
Edo Period, 17th Century
Cast bronze
Collection of the Kannon-ji Temple
Courtesy of The Museum of Shiga Prefecture, Biwako-Bunkakan

Click HERE to learn more about our Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan exhibition.

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