1100s, Heian period (794–1185)
Polychromed wood and gold
Funds from Collectors’ Choice IV
Known versions of the eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara date back to around the seventh century in India and China. In Japan, a depiction of Jūichimen Kannon (the Japanese name for this manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion) was one of the interior wall paintings within the main hall at Hōryūji, the seventh-century temple at Nara. Although eleven-headed is meant literally, sometimes the main head is not included in the count. This sculpture is carved from multiple pieces of wood, with five of its original eleven small heads configured on top of the main head. According to a popular explanation, Avalokiteshvara’s head split open from the pain of witnessing the suffering of humanity.
- “Light” — Denver Art Museum, 5/19/2019 – 5/1/2020