Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Overall: 223 x 226.4 cm (87 13/16 x 89 1/8 in.)
Gift of Mitsuru Tajima 1998.120
The central Buddha of Radiant Light is flanked by two attendant bodhisattvas, Sunlight and Moonlight, each in reverence posture.
The main deity seated at the center is Tejaprabha, the Buddha of Radiant Light. Blazing beams of light emanating from its celestial body are this deity’s weapon to crush all kinds of calamities. Coincidently, when this painting was created, Korea was experiencing a height of foreign military aggressions, including invasions by the French (1866) and the US (1871). The inscription at the bottom center states that a group of ladies from the royal court commissioned the scroll to wish for the well-being of their families. During the late Joseon dynasty, Korean women became largely marginalized. Nevertheless, they remained important patrons of Buddhist art and architecture, voicing their concerns for their country and families in peril.
Emerald Green: Toxic Pigment
Analysis of The Assembly of Tejaprabha Buddha led to the discovery that the light green pigment—mainly applied to some of the clothing—was not the finely ground malachite traditionally used, but was copper acetoarsenite. Commonly referred to as emerald green, this pigment was discovered in the early 1800s and first commercially manufactured in 1814.
Extremely poisonous, it was often used as an insecticide during the 19th and early 20th centuries. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy, a noninvasive analytical technique, revealed the presence of copper and arsenic. Further analysis of a small sample by Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy confirmed emerald green. With this newly gained information, conservators must handle this work with caution, using gloves and masks.
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