Jizo is a bodhisattva in the guise of a monk wearing a kesa, or patchwork surplice, and holding a monk's staff and a sacred jewel. Seated on a lotus pedestal, he has descended to earth to "mingle with the dust," or enter the hells to exchange place with sinners. The cult of Jizo as a savior and an advocate for the sinner in hell became central to Japanese Buddhism in the Kamakura period. Functioning like a priest, he serves as a guide of the dead through the intermediate state and on to birth in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha. In popular religion, Jizo is also linked with indigenous cults of fertility and childbirth.
Previously sold in these Rooms, 22 April, 1987, lot 430