X-ray radiography of the Standing Figure of a Bodhisattva

X-ray radiography of the upper torso of the Standing Figure of a Bodhisattva

 As part of the research project of the Department of Research Programming, “Trans-Disciplinary Study of Art Materials and Techniques,” X-ray radiography was taken of a hollow dry lacquer Standing Figure of a Bodhisattva (height 77.1 cm; private collection in Tokyo) at the Institute on January 29 (Tuesday). As mentioned in the Monthly Report for September, this figure is believed to have been created at the beginning of the 9th century according to its style. Since the investigation carried out in June was limited to visual inspection of the surface, we were not able to clarify the structure or the method of manufacture employed for the figure. Thus X-ray radiography was executed this time to examine whether there is any structural member inside the statue that would be used to support it, how many layers of hemp cloth were used, and how much later additions and restorations had been made. As a result of this examination it was confirmed that there is no structural member inside to support the figure, that restoration had been limited to the surface and that there was not much damage extending to the inside of the figure. Furthermore, it was found that the clay had been removed by separating the figure into the front and back halves by cutting on a line that passes through the ears, while the normal method for making a hollow dry lacquer statue was to apply layers of hemp cloth to a clay mold and to remove the mold from rectangular windows cut at the back of the head and on the back of the torso so as to create the hollow space. It was also found that on this figure the arms had been made separately and attached at the shoulders after the front and back halves had been rejoined. Such method suggests that there was a new development in structure and technique of hollow dry lacquer toward the end of the manufacture of hollow dry lacquer statues. Further technical clarification in this aspect is expected.

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