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The deity Brahma, 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. 61 1/2 in x W. 14 1/2 in x D. 26 in, H. 156.2 cm x W. 36.8 cm x D. 66 cm (overall)
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Japanese Art
Collection: Sculpture
Object Number: B65S13
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 26

Description

Label: Brahma was a Hindu god who was incorporated into Buddhist mythology as an attendant of the Buddha. He appeared as such in Japanese sculpture in the eighth century. The Bonten shown here was 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 it was treasured in the temple's West Golden Hall. The statue 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 statue along with seventeen others in an effort to keep them in Japan. This Bonten remained in the Masuda family until Mr. Brundage acquired them in 1965.

This Bonten is extremely rare and important because it was made for Kofukuji in the dry lacquer technique, an ancient method that produced lightweight, portable statues. This statue and its pair are the only examples made in dry lacquer technique that are in the United States. Bonten's head, except for the lower right part of his face, was lost and re-created, as were the hands and the shoes. The painting on their costumes, however, is close to the original.

More Information

Exhibition History: "Tempyo Era" special exhibition, Nara National Museum, 4/21/1998 - 6/7/1998
Label: Brahma was a Hindu god who was incorporated into Buddhist mythology as an attendant of the Buddha. He appeared as such in Japanese sculpture in the eighth century. The Bonten shown here was 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 it was treasured in the temple's West Golden Hall. The statue 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 statue along with seventeen others in an effort to keep them in Japan. This Bonten remained in the Masuda family until Mr. Brundage acquired them in 1965.

This Bonten is extremely rare and important because it was made for Kofukuji in the dry lacquer technique, an ancient method that produced lightweight, portable statues. This statue and its pair are the only examples made in dry lacquer technique that are in the United States. Bonten's head, except for the lower right part of his face, was lost and re-created, as were the hands and the shoes. The painting on their costumes, however, is close to the original.
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.