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Marcel Nies

11. Bodhisattva Jizo
Japan
Heian period 12th century
Wood, carved from a single block, hands, feet and staff carved separately
Height: 50.4cm
Bodhisattva Jizo

Jizo was one of the most appealing bodhisattvas in the Japanese Mahayana Buddhist pantheon, who assisted mankind to the path to spiritual salvation. As early as the eight century he was referred to religious documents and sutras, and became widely known and venerated. The merciful figure moved through the six realms of existence till his achievement of enlightenment in order to accomplish his roll of saving all sentient beings. Jizo appears as a kind and young monk with shaven head, no adornments, and dressed in the simple robe of a clerc.

Traces of pigments remain of the once colourful garment designs on the carved surface. Some gold designs are now essentially lost and were part of the originally lavish decoration serving to illuminate the graceful image. Jizo’s enlighted status as a deity is indicated by the urna on his forehead and his elongated earlobes. In his left hand he originally held a pearl-like jewel, called nyoishu, the gem of wisdom, and in his right hand he holds a staff with six dangling rings topped by a pagoda, used as a warning of his approach and to warn demons and creatures that might be stepped on.

During the Heian period (794–1185), many sculptors were adopting a new naturalism and dynamism introduced from mainland China. The sculpture’s single block construction (ichiboku-zukuri) and the figure’s style and gesture are typical of the Heian period and suggest a provenance of Shiga or Mie prefectures. This important and early Japanese sculpture recalls the restrained classical forms of the high aristocracy of the Heian period and is imbued with a superb presence. The realistic features are beautifully incorporated into the figure’s quiet idealized beauty. Noteworthy are the fine body volume from which the arms emerge, the fluid movement of the sleeves and robe, all complemented by original polychromes.

Provenance:
The Kurt and Millie Gitter Collection, New Orleans, USA, before 1983.

Published:
New Orleans Museum of Art, A Myriad of Autumn Leaves, Japanese Art from the Kurt and Millie Gitter Collections, 1983, pp. 290–291, fig. 106.

Exhibited:
New Orleans Museum of Art, A Myriad of Autumn Leaves, Japanese Art from the Kurt and Millie Gitter Collections, Nov. 13, 1983 – Jan. 15, 1984.
The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, February 15 – April 22, 1984.

Literature:
P. L. Scheurleer, Asiatic Art in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Amsterdam, 1985, p. 106, fig. 100.
P. Pal, American Collectors of Asian Art, Bombay, 1986, p. 60, fig. 6.
Art bouddhique japonais – Japanse boeddhistische kunst, BBL tentoonstelling, 1989, p. 58, fig. 4.
D. Patry Leidy, Treasures of Asian Art; Selections from the Mr and Mrs John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York, 1994, pp. 226–227, fig. 223.



all text, images © Marcel Nies
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