AN IMPORTANT GILT AND POLYCHROMED WOOD FIGURE OF AIZEN MYO-O, MUROMACHI PERIOD (1333-1573)
Gilt and polychrome pigments on wood, metal and glass
Japan, Muromachi period (1333-1573), possibly earlier
The wrathful deity is carved in wood with polychrome pigments, predominantly in red and is gilded in some areas. Aizen Myo-o is depicted here characteristically with six arms, the lower arms holding a five-pronged vajra, the diamond which cuts through an illusion, and a ritual bell, which calls one to awareness. The other hands are holding a bow and arrow and an unopened lotus flower, which represents the power of subjugation. His headdress is ornate and made of metal with several glass beads hanging from it, with a snarling shishi on top, colored in blue and green pigments. He is seated in lotus position on top of a lotus pedestal on a multi-stepped base with a ribbon tied around it. The folds of his garments are expressive and colored in great detail with a brocade pattern. A large mandorla with an intricately painted pattern, which surrounds the deity is attached to the base. His facial expression is ferocious as he opens his mouth, baring his teeth and his hair is wild and flaming, representing rage, lust and passion.
Aizen Myo-o, also known as Ragaraja, is one of the five wisdom kings, sometimes referred to as the ‘god of love’ and is worshipped for translating worldly lust and desire into spiritual awaking.
Dimensions: Height 48 cm
Condition: Very good and original condition, considering the age. The entire figure has been examined under blacklight and has remained unrestored, which is extremely rare considering that most of these figures are restored and painted over. Expected wear, surface cracks and chips.
Provenance: Austrian private collection
Literature comparison: A similar figure, especially when looking at the manner of the shishi in the crown and the color of the red pigments, is in the National Museum of Tokyo and is dated to the Kamakura period (13th century)
Auction result comparison: Compare to a very similar figure, though restored, which sold at Bonhams, Fine Japanese and Korean Art, London, 15. March 2017, lot 6158