Descent of Buddha Amitabha (Amida Raigo)

Anonymous artist

Anonymous artist - Descent of Buddha Amitabha (Amida Raigo)
Amitabha (The Buddha of Infinite Light), referred to as the Amida Buddha in Japanese Buddhism, is the central figure of this scroll. Hanging scrolls with the theme of Amida’s descent from heaven were used as promises of future posthumous life in the Pure Land and were hung at the deathbeds of devotees. Here, the Amitabha is portrayed in the company of 25 Bodhisattvas playing traditional musical instruments, as they stand on a double lotus pedestal, the hands in the gesture of supreme forgiveness with which he admits believers into the Western Paradise. The Bodhisattva’s flowing garment suggests a dynamic movement, which is why this iconographic type is called haya raigō, Rapid Descent. Scrolls depicting Amida’s descent were frequently adorned with ribbons that were placed in the hands of the dying person to make the connection as direct as possible and the ascension into heaven truly smooth. The oldest representations of Amida’s descent were composed symmetrically and frontally; later the sculptures were depicted in a three-quarter view. It facilitated the transition to the diagonal composition that was characteristic of Japanese art, while incorporating a measure of spiritual hierarchy into the scene. Instead of kirigane gold leaf typical of classic paintings, kindei gold paint is used in the exhibited scroll set into the brocade mounting. Both the technical and stylistic elements date this anonymous painting to the high Edo period. There are two inscriptions on the back of the scroll: Nijūgo Bosatsu (25 Bodhisattvas) and Gokokuin Jūmotsu (Important Property of the Gokoku Hall); this inscription identifies the work as one of the original artefacts from the Kimiidera Temple of the Shingon sect in Wakayama.
measurements: height 149 cm
width 73 cm
material: Silk
technique: Ink, colour and gold painting
inventory number: Vm 137
gallery collection: Collection of Asian and African Art