The figure of one of the Ten Disciples of the Historical Buddha is posed standing on a separate base carved as a rocky outcropping. He wears the simple robe of a monk, open at the torso and draped only over the left shoulder and arm. The robe falls in vertical and diagonal pleats in the front and in the upper half of the back. The robe is patterned with black hems and crosshatching. The bare feet wear simple sandals. A slender cord of the robe extends from the front tie above the left hand across the left shoulder and down the back. The statue has been reconstructed from its damaged original parts and painstakingly restored in the 1920s, as discussed in the catalogue note below.
59¾ in. (151.8 cm.) high
Kofukuji Temple, Nara.
Muto Sanji (1867-1934), Osaka, 1920s.

Muto Sanji was a renowned collector of Buddhist material. He is remembered as a single-minded, reformist politician who villified collusion between government officials and businessmen. In 1934, he published exposés on selected corrupt deals in the Jiji Shinpo newspaper, offering his own integrity as a guarantee of his findings. Muto was a committed capitalist who believed that economics and morality should coexist in modern society. His Kanegafuchi Spinning Company was a model textile mill, providing enlightened management and the highest employee wages and benefits in Japan. Muto died from gunshot wounds inflicted by an assassin who begrudged Muto's stance, ironically, on the private ownership of crematoria in Tokyo.
Miura Hidenosuke, ed., Muto Sanji shushu: Kobijutsu kenkyushiryo, Nihon no bu (The Muto Sanji Collection: Study of classical art, Japan volume), Osaka, 1930, pls. 42-45.
Mizuno Keizaburo, "Judaideshi ryuzo" (Standing figures of the Ten Disciples of the Buddha), in Kofukuji 1, vol. 7 of Nara rokudaiji taikan (Survey of the six major temples in Nara), Tokyo, 1969, p. 87, pl. 64.
Nenge misho Buddha's Smile: Masterpieces of Japanese Buddhist Art, edited by London Gallery, Tokyo, 2000, pl. 19.
Asai Kazuharu, ed., Tenpyo no chokoku: Nihon chokoku no koten (Tenpyo-era sculpture: Classics of Japanese sculpture), Nihon no bijutsu (Arts of Japan) 456, Tokyo, 2004, p. 36.
Nenge misho Buddha's Smile: Masterpieces of Japanese Buddhist Art, Okura Museum of Art, 2000.

Lot Essay

This statue is thought to be one of the famous eighth-century set of Ten Disciples (Judai Deshi) of the Buddha from the West Golden Hall (Kondo) of Kofukuji Temple in Nara. Only six remain in the temple and they are registered National Treasures. For a discussion of this set in English, see Jiro Sugiyama, Classic Buddhist Sculpture: The Tempyo Period, translated and adapted by Samuel C. Morse, Tokyo, 1982, pp. 69-73. When the single figure of Ashura from a related set of hollow dry-lacquer sculptures at Kofukuji was exhibited in 2009 at the Tokyo National Museum, attendance reached nearly one million.

One of the now-missing figures from the set of ten principal disciples of Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, belonged to the late nineteenth-century tycoon and collector Okura Kihachiro (1837-1928), but it was lost in a fire. The head of one is in the collection of the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. The wood core of another is in the Tokyo University of Fine Arts.

The statue shown here is heavily restored and has a document describing its conservation written by a monk at Kofukiji in 1922 (Taisho 11). According to the document, the conservator was Sugawara Daizaburo. At that time the head had been lost. The wood core and remaining fragments of the dry-lacquer body as well as parts of the original pedestal were used to recreate the sculpture. It remains a rare and valuable historical document. Some scholars think the head in the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art may be the original head of this sculpture.

The statues are intended as portraits of the disciples, each individualized. But they were in fact likely modeled on the appearances of monks of varying ages living in the capital city of Nara during the Tenpyo era (711-81). The statues are similar in their frontal poses and vary in the arrangement of the folds of the robe, which covers either one or both shoulders. The head of the figure is unusually small in relation to the body, caused by the shrinking of the lacquer and linen cloth when it hardens. The expressive possibilities of the poses are limited by the technique. Over an armature made of wicker, the form of the statue is built up by wrapping it with layers of lacquer-soaked linen cloth. The result is a rather stiff posture, with no suggestion of movement. The statues are ascribed to the large atelier of the sculptor of Buddhist images named Shogun Manpuku. For further discussion, see Tanabe Saburosuke, "One of the Ten Disciples of Sakyamuni," in Nenge misho Buddha's Smile: Masterpieces of Japanese Buddhist Art, edited by London Gallery, Tokyo, 2000, cat. no. 19.

The only related works in the West are two standing, hollow dry-lacquer figures, Bonten (Brahma) and Taishakuten (Indra) in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. Measuring approximately 141 centimeters each, slightly smaller than the Ten Great Disciples, they may have been made around 733 to 750, somewhat later than the West Golden Hall figures. Like the figure offered for sale here, they left Kofukuji in the late Meiji period.

By the early Meiji period, Kofukuji had suffered numerous fires and was almost bankrupted, having lost all of its land and without proper administrative leadership. It tried to sell off one of its pagodas for 30 yen. The sale was ultimately annulled and today the temple pagodas are National Treasures. Around 1905, in the face of economic collapse, the chief abbot made the painful decision to sell some of the damaged Buddhist sculptures in order to raise money for upkeep and operations. An archival photo of damaged sculptures lined up for sale at Kofukuji in 1905 or 1906 shows both of the Asian Art Museum statues (Taishakuten with its head removed); a standing Miroku Bosatsu by Kaikei that is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and two other statues now in the Nara National Museum and the Nezu Museum, Tokyo. It was the industrialist Masuda Takashi (1848-1938), founder of Mitsui Trading Company, who purchased the Taishakuten and Bonten. Restoration on the Masuda pieces was completed by December 1927, when he exhibited them at his Gotenyama estate in Tokyo. They were sold to Avery Brundage by Masuda's heirs in 1965. The Brundage Collection now forms the core of San Francisco's Asian Art Museum.

In 2012, the Japanese scholars Tsuda Tetsuei and Sarai Mai of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, examined the Bonten and Taishakuten in San Francisco, and confirmed that parts of both heads and the hands are restored but the bodies appear to be intact. For the Asian Art Museum statues, see Yoshiko Kakudo, The Art of Japan: Masterworks in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, 1991, pls. 28, 29; Melissa M. Rinne, "Avery Brundage's Other Olympic Prize: The Asian Art Museum's Dry Lacquer Sculptures Bonten and Taishakuten," Lotus Leaves, vol. 11, no. 1 (Fall 2008): 15-24; and Kurata Bunsaku, Zaigai Nihon no shiho: Chokoku (Masterpieces of Japanese Art in Western Collections: Sculpture), Tokyo, 1980, pls. 51-52.

By the early ninth century, the hollow dry-lacquer technique was replaced by a new technique in which a layer of hemp cloth, finished with a coat of lacquer, covers a figure built of solid blocks of wood. An example of the wood-core dry lacquer technique is the early ninth-century seated Amida in the Powers Collection (see John M. Rosenfield and Shujiro Shimada, Traditions of Japanese Art: Selections from the Kimiko and John Powers Collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970, pl. 13.

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