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Standing Indra (Taishakuten), one of a pair
Place of Origin: Japan, Nara
Date: approx. 730-734
Historical Period: Nara period (710-794)
Materials: Hollow dry lacquer
Dimensions: H. 62 in x W. 15 1/2 in x D. 26 in, H. 157.5 cm0 x W. 39.4 cm x D. 66 cm (overall)
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Japanese Art
Collection: Sculpture
Object Number: B65S12
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 26

Description

Label:

Indra (shown here) and Brahma (B65S13)—also known as Taishakuten and Bonten—were Hindu gods who were incorporated into Buddhist mythology as attendants of the Buddha. They appeared as such in Japanese sculpture in the eighth century. This Taishakuten and Bonten were specifically created for Kofukuji, one of the most important temples in Nara, the ancient capital of the Nara period (710-794). It is said that they were treasured in the temple's West Golden Hall. The statues escaped a few fires, including the one of 1180, which destroyed the Golden Hall. In 1906, when Kofukuji sought to raise funds for temple repairs by selling some of its treasures, Masuda Takashi (also known as Donno, 1848-1938), a famous industrialist and art collector, acquired the pair along with sixteen others in an effort to keep them in Japan. This Taishakuten and Bonten remained in the Masuda family until Avery Brundage acquired them in 1965.

The museum's Taishakuten and Bonten are extremely rare and important because they are made for Kofukuji in the dry lacquer technique, an ancient method that produced lightweight, portable statues. This technique was used in Japan for only about 100 years. Even in Japan, such sculptures are rare, and most have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. The Asian Art Museum’s Taishakuten and Bonten constitute the only pair of full-scale hollow dry lacquer sculptures in the Western hemisphere today.


More Information

Exhibition History: "Tempyo Era" special exhibition, Nara National Museum, 4/21/1998 - 6/7/1998
Label:

Indra (shown here) and Brahma (B65S13)—also known as Taishakuten and Bonten—were Hindu gods who were incorporated into Buddhist mythology as attendants of the Buddha. They appeared as such in Japanese sculpture in the eighth century. This Taishakuten and Bonten were specifically created for Kofukuji, one of the most important temples in Nara, the ancient capital of the Nara period (710-794). It is said that they were treasured in the temple's West Golden Hall. The statues escaped a few fires, including the one of 1180, which destroyed the Golden Hall. In 1906, when Kofukuji sought to raise funds for temple repairs by selling some of its treasures, Masuda Takashi (also known as Donno, 1848-1938), a famous industrialist and art collector, acquired the pair along with sixteen others in an effort to keep them in Japan. This Taishakuten and Bonten remained in the Masuda family until Avery Brundage acquired them in 1965.

The museum's Taishakuten and Bonten are extremely rare and important because they are made for Kofukuji in the dry lacquer technique, an ancient method that produced lightweight, portable statues. This technique was used in Japan for only about 100 years. Even in Japan, such sculptures are rare, and most have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. The Asian Art Museum’s Taishakuten and Bonten constitute the only pair of full-scale hollow dry lacquer sculptures in the Western hemisphere today.


Exhibition History: "Tempyo Era" special exhibition, Nara National Museum, 4/21/1998 - 6/7/1998
Resources:

Video: Bonten and Taishakuten (Part 1 of 2): http://youtu.be/gZt9a6MPykY
Video: Bonten and Taishakuten (Part 2 of 2): http://youtu.be/T7uKnNLA_7A

Samuel Morse of Amherst College discusses a pair of matched Japanese Buddhist dry lacquer sculptures, deemed masterpieces in the Asian Art Museum's collection. A lecture presented by the Society for Asian Art on April 17, 2015.


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