A Moment of Zen

The Buddha, a little shy hippopotamus and a dream robe.

Buddha Mahavairocana (Dainichi Nyorai), ca. 1150-1200
Cryptomeria wood

This sculpture was originally the main figure of worship in a temple, surrounded by other Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and guardian figures. Visitors would have come to pray or attend rituals and sutra readings performed by monks. The RISD Museum acquired the statue in the 1930s. Records state it was the principal image of Rokuon-ji, a Shingon sub-temple in Hyogo Prefecture, along Japan’s Inland Sea. Legend has it that the temple was destroyed by fire hundreds of years ago but that the statue was stored in a nearby farmhouse until 1933, when it was brought to the U.S. by the Japanese art dealer Yamanaka. The largest wooden Japanese sculpture in the United States, it was constructed from 11 hollowed and carved pieces of wood. Its simple surfaces and serene expression are representative of the late Heian Period.

Middle Kingdom to Second Intermediate Period, Dynasty 11-13
Hippopotamus, 2040-1638 BCE

Robe, 1800s
Silk tapestry weave (kesi) with handpainted decoration and applied compound-weave ribbon

RISD Museum, Providence, RI

November 23rd, 2018

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