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Eleven-Headed Kannon (Ekadashamukha)

Period:
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
Date:
13th–14th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Wood with lacquer and gold-leaf decoration; inlaid crystal eyes
Dimensions:
Overall (figure): H. 78 3/8 in. (199.1 cm); W. 21 1/2 in. (54.6 cm); D. 23 1/8 in. (58.7 cm) Overall (figure with base): H. 92 1/4 in. (234.5 cm); W. 30 3/8 in. (77.2 cm); D. 25 1/2 in. (64.8 cm) Overall (total with halo): H. 93 1/4 in. (236.9 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Accession Number:
1975.268.167
  • Description

    The eleven-headed form of the bodhisattva Kannon wasone of the first deities of Esoteric Buddhism to be worshiped in Japan. Ten of his heads are in the form of bodhisattvas. The eleventh, the topmost, is that of Amida (Sanskrit: Amitâbha), the Buddha of which Kannon is considered an emanation. The eleven heads symbolize Kannon's ability to see suffering in all corners of the universe and respond with compassion to those in need.

    The fluid, deeply undercut modeling of the drapery follows the sculptural style developed in Nara in the thirteenth century by sculptors of the Kei school, who delighted in creating naturalistic images in dynamic poses accentuated by the treatment of the garments. This imposing figure, however, features a more decorative treatment of the robe and a heavy, solemn face, which suggest that it was carved in the fourteenth century. It was originally housed in Kuhonji, a small Shingon school temple located northwest of Kyoto.

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    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
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