The Bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteshvara)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 224

Kannon is a compassionate bodhisattva and one of the most popular and most frequently depicted deities in Japanese Buddhism. Here he wears flowing robes and is draped with sashes. Originally, its surface would have been decorated with layers of lacquer, pigments, and mostly likely gold leaf, though today its cypress wood core is completely revealed. The sculpture represents a technical and stylistic transition. Its ample proportions harken back to sculpture of the 900s, while the artist’s approach to the figure’s posture and drapery suggests a date to the next century.

The manner of carving the head and most of the body out of a single block of wood represents a late modification of the so-called ichiboku-zukuri method at a time when many Japanese Buddhist sculptors were transitioning toward the more efficient multi-block, or yosegi-zukuri, technique.

The Bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteshvara), Cypress wood, Japan

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