Art/ Collection/ Art Object

극락에서 설법하는 아미타불 조선
阿彌陀極樂會圖 朝鮮
Amitabha Buddha’s assembly in the Western Paradise

Unidentified Artist Korean, ca. 1775–1850
Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)
late 18th–early 19th century
Ink and traces of color on paper
Image: 59 1/2 x 59 1/2 in. (151.1 x 151.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Louis V. Bell, Mary Trumbell Adams and Harris Brisbane Dick Funds, 2011
Accession Number:
Not on view
This work depicts an assembly of divine figures in the Western Paradise, the realm of the Amitabha Buddha (Korean: Amita). The central deity sits on a lotus flower atop a fabric-covered dais, surrounded by a supporting cast of twelve, including bodhisattvas, disciples, guardians, and attendants. In particular, Avalokiteshvara (Korean: Gwaneum) and Kshitigarbha (Korean: Jijang)—at the Buddha’s left and right, respectively—are often paired as attendant bodhisattvas to Amitabha in Korean Pure Land Buddhist iconography. He touches his right thumb to his right middle finger in a gesture indicative of teaching.

Ink drawings such as this one were adhered to the backs of coarsely woven, semitransparent silks on which the final image was painted (guided by the outlines of the underdrawing). Here, the small areas of the paper where the pigments have seeped through the silk display faint traces of red and green. This piece is a finished drawing rather than a study sketch; few such underdrawings survive as independent works of art. The elegant and dynamic calligraphic quality of the drawing would have been lost in the final painting, as pigments mask and trump lines. The drawing reveals the processes involved in producing a Buddhist painting in Joseon Korea, preserving an important facet of that creative output.
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