Japan, 18th to 19th century, Edo period (1615-1868)
Finely cast in multiple sections, Amida standing on a lotus dais supported by a round pedestal with hands raised in raigo-in (vitarka mudra). He is wearing heavy monastic robes falling in elegant, voluminous folds and opening at the chest. His face bearing a serene expression with heavy-lidded eyes, sinuous brows and a raised byakugo (urna), his hair arranged in tight curls over the domed ushnisha, flanked by beautiful kohai (nimbus) exuding rays.
HEIGHT 35.4 cm (figure), 65.6 cm (incl. stand)
WEIGHT 7,848 g
Condition: Good condition with minor wear, light nicks, small scratches, some rubbing, and repairs to the neck and hands. The bronze is covered in a rich, dark patina.
Provenance: Ex-collection of Anton Exner, Vienna, Austria. Each section painted in red ‘EX5.’ Anton Exner (1882-1952) was the most important dealer, collector, and assessor of East Asian art in Vienna during the interwar period. His collection included all branches of Asian art, from all epochs, and particularly Chinese and Japanese works. During a long sojourn through Canada and the USA from 1908 to 1910, he made first contacts with Chinese dealers and subsequently acquired numerous antiques at various Asian ports, which formed the basis for his future business activities. From then on, he went almost every year on buying trips to the Far East. The Austrian auction house Dorotheum appointed him as a sworn assessor of Asian art, a position he held for c. 25 years. From the early 1920s onwards, he lent objects to most major exhibitions of Asian art held in Austria, and eventually gifted a large part of his personal collection, numbering several thousand objects, to the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, where it is on permanent exhibition to this day.
The sculpture represents Amitabha, known in Japanese as Amida Nyorai, or the Buddha of Limitless Light. Amitabha reigns over the Western Pure Land, a paradise to which anyone is welcomed if they faithfully and sincerely incant his name. This place of salvation became central to the Jodo [lit. Pure Land] sect of Buddhism. Propounded in 1175 by the monk Honen, the accessibility of such tenets of redemption allowed this form of Buddhism to proliferate across the nation and feudal classes of Japan. Often depicted with an elaborate mandala, the boat-shaped halo is said to remind his followers that he serves as a guide for them to cross the ocean of suffering which contaminates the living.
Japanese gilt bronzes depicting Amida are to be considered extremely rare.
Compare a related earlier gilt bronze figure of Amida, dated 14th-15th century, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET), accession no. 1975.268.168a, b.
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