The study of a hollow dry lacquer Standing Figure of a Bodhisattva

Standing Figure of a Bodhisattva, private collection

  As a part of the Cross-Disciplinary Study of Art Materials and Techniques, a research project being undertaken by the Department of Research Programming, a hollow dry lacquer Figure of a Standing Bodhisattva (private collection in Tokyo) was investigated on Thursday, June 21. In hollow dry lacquer technique used for a Buddha statue, a clay mold is first made. Then hemp cloth is pasted to the surface of the mold after which the clay is removed from the mold to make a hollow. Finally an over-layering of lacquer stiffened with plant fibers is applied to the surface of the hemp cloth. As is already known, the manufacture of Buddha statues using this technique was popular in Japan during the Tempyo period (8th century), but there are very few existing examples today. In such a circumstance, this Bodhisattva figure is an example whose existence was not known until recently Although there are traces of gold foil applied with lacquer on its surface, which is thought to have been done after the figure was made, and traces of repair on damaged parts, the condition of its preservation is comparatively good. It is also to be noted that the figure has been transmitted in an almost complete form. From the expression of the precious chignon and the form of the face, it appears that the figure was manufactured either at the end of the 8th century or the beginning of the 9th century. However, as is the case with the investigation of hollow dry lacquer figures, it is true that a visual observation of the surface does not provide enough information as to how many layers of hemp cloth had been applied or to what degree restoration and later additions had been made. We hope to conduct X-ray photography of this figure, with the permission of the owner, in order to study the materials and techniques used so that we may better understand it.

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