Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Descent of Eleven-Headed Kannon

Unidentified Artist
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
mid–late 16th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Image: 36 1/2 × 15 1/2 in. (92.7 × 39.4 cm) Overall with mounting: 70 × 22 7/16 in. (177.8 × 57 cm) Overall with knobs: 70 × 24 in. (177.8 × 61 cm)
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Gift of Mrs. J. Watson Webb, 1930
Accession Number:
Not on view
The bodhisattva Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara) is one of two bodhisattvas who flank the Buddha Amida (Sanskrit: Amitābha) when he descends to deliver those who call his name to his Pure Land. Here, Kannon in his eleven-headed form descends alone upon a bank of clouds to meet the believer. His right hand is held open to bestow compassion and is encircled by crystal prayer beads, while his left hand holds a lotus in a vase, representing the healing power of the Buddhist Law. Diminutive heads atop his own signal the manifold ways in which he hears, observes, and meets every need of the faithful. The haloed topmost head is that of Amida. Kannon’s attendant relationship to this Buddha of Infinite Light is explicit here in the standing figure of the crown and the rays of light that emanate in all directions from his golden form.
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