Snapshots: Asian Galleries, Then and Now

Seated Amitayus Buddha, c. 570s. China, Northern Qi dynasty (550-577). Marble, Overall - h:110.00 w:66.10 cm (h:43 1/4 w:26 inches). Worcester R. Warner Collection 1915.334.1.

Throughout the decades, the look, feel, and location of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s galleries featuring Asian artwork has transformed around the Seated Amitayus Buddha, pictured above. Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Life, is seated in meditation on a double lotus pedestal. The pedestal was not made with the statue but the combination is faithful to the original artistic conception. The statue is an extremely rare example of a major type of Northern Qi Buddhist sculpture. A heavy, massive frontality highlights the sense of monumentality and the spiritual essence of the Buddha. The pedestal exhibits the rich, ornate style of early Tang sculpture. It was commissioned by the Duke of Liang, Fang Xuanling (578-648), for the blessing of his second son and daughter-in-law, the Tang imperial princess of Gaoyang. The iconography and inscription suggest that it originally went with a statue, now missing, of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha.

Acquired before the opening of the museum as part of the Worcester R. Warner Collection in 1915, the Buddha sculpture was featured prominently in the Cleveland Museum of Art's inaugural exhibition in 1916. Seen above, the Buddha is situated against the wall, while the pedestal is in the center of the room.

In 1958, much of the Asian Collection moved to a newly constructed wing, as depicted in the photo above. The building, designed by architects Hays & Ruth, was demolished in 2009 to make room for the Rafael Viñoly designed building.

During the construction of architect Marcel Breuer’s 1971 building, the auditorium in the museum’s original building was renovated to house the Asian Collection (above).

Now, the Seated Amitayus Buddha is back on view to the public in the Cleveland Museum of Art's brand new west wing galleries featuring the museum's world-renowned collection of Indian, Southeast Asian, and Chinese art. See it for yourself at the CMA!

-Susan Hernandez, Ingalls Library

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