13. Head of a Bosatsu
Edo period 1603-1868, ca 1700 CE
Bronze, cast by the lost wax method, gilding,
The Japanese term Bosatsu refers to the sanskrit name Bodhisattva, who has reached the final stage of transmigration and awakening, just prior to Buddhahood, and whose highest aspiration is to save all sentient beings. The Bodhisattva concept is closely associated with Mahayana Buddhism, which has been forming one of the most spread philosophical movements in Japan since the 7th century.
This monumental head of a Bodhisattva is depicted with an impressive chignon ushnisa signifying his spiritual elevation, and integrated in the magnificent coiffure, elegantly arranged with heavy braids. The chignon is topped with a triratna symbolising the three jewels; buddha, dharma and sangha(body, speech and mind). A finely curved diadem with a row of lotusleaves frames the head. The god is portrayed with arched eyebrows above meditative half-closed eyes, a gently smiling mouth, and with a finely delineated chin. The urna shown on the forehead is the sign of illumination and the elongated earlobes connote royalty.
The present head of Bosatsu would be part of an extremely large bronze temple statue, once gracing a sanctuary where devotees could go and pray, and could reunite with their god. In regards to its monumental size and superb quality, the head is an icon for classical Japanese Art during the Edo period. The high quality casting reveals a perfect volume with fine lines, and the god expresses a profound sense of nobility and ‘peace of mind’. The impressively shaped chignon and the original gilding with a rich brown natural patina complement this important portrait of Bosatsu.
Collection Aalderink, Algemene Ethnografica en kunsthandel, Amsterdam, before 1963. Collection Mr. A. Cohen Tervaert, The Netherlands 1963-2015. Original invoice: Aalderink, dated 6 June 1963.
The original wooden mounting dating from the 1950s is available with the piece.
G. Gabbert, Buddhistische Plastik aus Japan und China, Köln, 1972, pp. 228-229, fig. 60.