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Kamakura period (1185-1333) Japan
Amida Buddha [Amitabha, the Buddha of boundless light] 13th century Place made: Kamakura, Kanto, Kanagawa-ken prefecture, Japan
Materials & Technique: sculptures, wood, lacquer, gold, precious stone; carving, gilding
Dimensions: 91.5 h x 37.5 w x 37.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1980
Accession No: NGA 80.3628.A-B
Provenance:
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses. (added 2016)
  • with Marian Hammer, Bigoria, Switzerland, 1980 and before
  • who sold it to the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, October 1980

Regarded as one of the most compassionate figures in Buddhism, Amida (Amitabha), Buddha of Infinite Light, was a popular saviour figure in the Kamakura period and is the principal deity of the Pure Land Buddhist sect in Japan. Followers believe that faith in Amida, as well as contemplating his image and chanting his name, will enable rebirth in the lush Pure Land of the Western Paradise. In an earlier mythical life as a monk, Amida vowed that if he attained enlightenment he would dedicate himself to the salvation of all beings from the suffering of the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Shown in this sculpture with his hands welcoming souls to the Pure Land, Amida exhibits the physical attributes of greatness established in India centuries earlier. These include the cranial bump (ushnisha) indicating wisdom, and the circular mark (urna), here a jewel, between his eyes. Looking down in compassion, Amida's eyes are inset with crystal. He stands on a lotus base, a symbol of particular significance in Pure Land Buddhism where souls are believed to be reborn into the Western Paradise from the centre of a lotus blossom.

The sculpture was carved from separate pieces of wood that were joined and covered with layers of cloth and lacquer before being gilded. Amida’s golden robes signify the Buddha’s luminous benevolence.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

Regarded as one of the most compassionate figures in Buddhism, Amida (Amitabha), the Buddha of Infinite Light, was a popular saviour figure in the Kamakura period and the principal deity of the Pure Land Buddhist sect in Japan. Followers believe that faith in Amida, as well as contemplating his image and chanting his name, will enable rebirth in the Pure Land, a Buddhist paradise in the West. In this image, the figure’s raised hands welcome the reborn souls.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label