Artwork of the Week: May 15

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Japan (Kamakura Period), Bishamonten, Guardian of the North. Hinoki wood with lacquer paste and traces of gilding, about 1250–1300. Gift of The Apollo Society, 2008.118. H. 73 in., Gallery 29A

Japan (Kamakura Period), Bishamonten, Guardian of the North. Hinoki wood with lacquer paste and traces of gilding, about 1250–1300. Gift of The Apollo Society, 2008.118. H. 73 in., Gallery 29A

This life-size figure is a fine example of the sculpture of the Kamakura period in Japan, which is characterized by a strong sense of movement, large free-flowing elements, and a sense of realism. Bishamonten is one of the four guardian figures placed at the corners of the main altar in a Buddhist temple, which correspond to the four cardinal directions. Bishamonten represents the north. It was typical in Japan from the 9th to the 13th century for sculptures to be carved from one block of wood, like this example; though occasionally some are found with separate pieces for the hands and arms that project from the body.


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