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Wisdom King of Passion (Aizen myōō)

Wisdom King of Passion (Aizen myōō)

1300s

Wood, with black lacquer and red pigments

Overall: 75 x 59 x 35 cm (29 1/2 x 23 1/4 x 13 3/4 in.)

Bequest of Elisabeth M. Skala 1987.185

Fun Fact

The torso, head, and legs of this figure were carved from a single block of wood. Four of the arms were carved separately and attached with iron clamps.

Description

The Buddhist deity Aizen channels carnal desire into a lust for spiritual enlightenment, and is an appropriation of the Hindu deity Rāgarāja. In its principal right arm this figure once held a vajra to cut through illusion, while its main left arm still grasps the vajra bell rung to bring one to awareness. The other arms grasped a lotus bud symbolizing the power of the Buddhist teachings, and a bow and arrow, borrowed from Kama, the Hindu god of love. The lion’s head in Aizen’s hair holds its mouth open so that it may be fed thoughts and desires. Traces of the red pigment that covered the deity’s body remain. Holes along the front of the legs show where the sculpture’s base, a lotus pedestal placed upon an urn spewing wish-fulfilling jewels, would have been attached.

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