Collections: Asian Art: Amit'a (Amitabha) with Six Bodhisattvas and Two Arhats

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    Amit'a (Amitabha) with Six Bodhisattvas and Two Arhats

    • Medium: Ink and colors on silk
    • Place Made: Korea
    • Dates: 19th century
    • Dynasty: Joseon Dynasty
    • Dimensions: 31 3/4 x 35 1/4 in. (80.6 x 89.5 cm)  (show scale)
    • Collections:Asian Art
    • Museum Location: This item is not on view
    • Accession Number: 86.260.2
    • Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Greenberg
    • Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
    • Caption: Amit'a (Amitabha) with Six Bodhisattvas and Two Arhats, 19th century. Ink and colors on silk, 31 3/4 x 35 1/4 in. (80.6 x 89.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Greenberg, 86.260.2
    • Image: overall, 86.260.2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    • Catalogue Description: From "Korean Art Collection in the Brooklyn Museum" catalogue: Hanging scroll mounted on panel This Buddhist painting features Amitabha Buddha attended by: four bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara, Mahasthamaprapta, Maitreya, and Ksitigarbha; two disciples, MahaKasyapa and Ananda; and two devas, Brahma and Indra. The principal figure, Amitabha Buddha, is seated cross-legged on a low square lotus seat, making the dharmacakra mudra, indicating that he is giving a sermon. Panduravasini wears a white robe with bejeweled crown, while Mahasthamaprapta holds a white porcelain bowl. The third attendant Kshitigarbha is wearing a hood and holds a magic pearl (cintamani) and a staff in his hands. The two guardian devas have third eyes on their foreheads and have their hands pressed in prayer. Unlike Bodhisattvas, who wear "heavenly robes" that expose their chests, the guardians wear robes that cover the entire body below the neck. MahaKasyapa and Ananda, who appear as an old and a young man, respectively, face each other with their hands clasped in prayer. From Accession Card: Amitabha (Buddha) with Six Bodhisattvas and Two Arhats Seated Buddha flanked by a group of four standing Bodhisattvas on each side, mainly in bright mineral colors of red, green and dark blue. The Buddha and Six Bodhisattvas in this painting also represent Ch'il Song, The Seven Star Spirits. Confucianism was the official state religion of the Yi Dynasty. Although the government persecuted Buddhists severely, Buddhism survived in Korea as a kind of folk religion with a large admixture of Shamanist and Taoist elements. The Seven Star Spirits were Taoist deities assimilated by Korean Shamanism and subsequently by Korean Buddhism. The Seven Stars are those of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, which is visible throughout the year from the northern hemisphere. Several other stars and constellations were deified by Chines Taoists, but the Big Dipper was the most important because it was thought to bestow good and bad luck. Seven was considered a lucky number in the Far East. The Big Dipper's seven stars were paralleled by the seven "stars" of the face: Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and a mouth. A person's destiny was thought to be controlled by the Seven Star Spirits. Therefore, it was important that a Korean Buddhist pay his respects and make a monetary offering in the Seven Star Shrine inside the compound of a Buddhist temple.
    • Record Completeness: Good (73%)
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    Recent Comments
    14:40 09/3/2010
    In the title to this object, it says Six Bodhisattvas, yet in the description it makes clear that there are only 4 bodhisattvas. Brahma & Indra are not bodhisattvas, so the title should say 4 bodhisattvas, 2 arhats, & 2 devas. It would be helpful if the description would provide the locations of these specific figures (ex: top row 1st from left side, or top row on Amitabha's right, with red shoulders). As is, The composition itself is an elaboration of the basic Three Holies Ones of the West (Amitabha, & the 2 foremost & larger figures in the front row: Avalokitesvara, & Mahasthamaprapta), so prominent in the Pure Land School of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. One particular bodhisattva is first referred to as Avalokitesvara, then later, without explanation, as Panduravasini. Comments on the dress & attributes of 3 bodhisattvas are given, but nothing regarding Maitreya. In general, I do not question the reasonableness or likelihood of the correctness of the names attributed to all 9 of the figures, but I think it would be better practice, more educational, & more credible if the reasoning for identifying these figures were to be explained in the description. Finally, I find it fascinating that Brahma & Indra are given such honored positions in this 19th century painting from Korea. They were frequently cited companions & advisors of Sakyamuni in his post-Renunciation lifetime as recorded in the Pali scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, but, I had thought, never so prominent & rarely appearing in Mahayana Buddhist scriptures & art.
    By Doug White
    12:53 09/7/2010
    Dear Mr. White,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and complete comment! I have forwarded your comment to the Asian Art curator, who will review your information in comparison to our records and correct the title if needed. Unfortunately, descriptions are uploaded directly from our database in order to give the public immediate access to object information and the curators may not have been able to review the information in detail before it is posted. Thanks to comments like yours, we are able to continually vet records and ensure accuracy.
    Thank you again. Sincerely,
    Katie Apsey
    Curatorial Assistant, Arts of Asia, Africa and the Islamic World
    By Katie Apsey

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