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Amit'a (Amitabha) and the Eight Bodhisattvas

Asian Art

Although Buddhism had flourished in Korea for centuries, official patronage for Buddhist art virtually disappeared when the Joseon dynasty, which discouraged the practice of Buddhism in favor of Confucianism, took power in 1392. The faith never truly died out, however, and artists continued to make Buddhist imagery for less elite patrons. Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, is shown here enthroned and making a teaching gesture. He is surrounded by an extensive retinue, including eight bodhisattvas, enlightened beings who assist mortals in their quest for enlightenment.

MEDIUM Hanging scroll; ink and gold on silk
  • Place Made: Korea
  • DATES Dated in accordance with 1666
    DYNASTY Joseon Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 39 x 32 in. (99.1 x 81.3cm) Overall: 40 x 33 1/2 in. (101.6 x 85.1 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Greenberg
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION From "Korean Art Collection in the Brooklyn Museum" catalogue: This painting shows Buddhist figures drawn in gold lines on a rather thick, coarsely woven silk that was painted with red ground. Of the postscript, only a few words such as "Amitabha" "almsgiver" "un" "alms gatherer" "painter" and "Hyeonjong" are still legible. In the painting, seated Amitabha is flanked by Eight Bodhisattvas. At the top right there is an Amitabha triad with a group of eight arhats, and another group of eight is at the top left, all on clouds flying toward Amitabha's sermon. The principal Buddha exhibits a symbolic hand gesture, a circle made with the thumb and the middle finger, while Avalokitesvara holds a ritual sprinkler and a willow branch in his hands, Mahasthamaprapta, a scripture, and Ksitigarbha, a monk's staff and a magic pearl (cintamani). The arrangement of the eight bodhisattvas attending Amitabha on a horizontal composition reminds the viewers of the Buddhist paintings of the early Joseon dynasty. However, questions posed by other elements such as the Amitabha triad riding clouds along with sixteen arhats, the facial expressions, other details of the Buddhist figures, lax brush strokes, awkward designs of the robes, and the lots pedestal demand further research.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Amit'a (Amitabha) and the Eight Bodhisattvas, Dated in accordance with 1666. Hanging scroll; ink and gold on silk, 39 x 32 in. (99.1 x 81.3cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Greenberg, 86.260.1 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 86.260.1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 86.260.1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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