Important Cultural PropertyBishamonten (Kubera)

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  • Color on silk
  • Heian period/Ōhō 2 (1162)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • C-1869-2

This is an image of Tamonten, who protects the northern quarter as a member of the Shitenno (four heavenly kings). The deity is called Bishamonten in its own right and attracted many believers. The image of this deity has a Hoto (one-storied pagoda) in its hand.
The surface of this image is covered with beautiful decoration: thin strips of gold leaf form various patterns on the surface painted in green, blue, orange or red (using the kirikane technique). Such brilliant decoration is characteristic of the Buddhist images and paintings of the late Heian period. The dignified figure suggests that this was created by a first-class sculptor. Moreover, gyokugan, which is a technique to insert eyes made of crystal into the head and was popular in the Kamakura period, is used on this image, making this a good referential material of the early use of the gyokugan technique. What makes this image more valuable are the 110 prints (woodblock prints) and colored paintings of Bishamonten, which were stored within the image. Since some prints had an inscription on the back that said "March 7, 1162," it can be estimated that the image was also created about the same time. It was originally enshrined in the Nakagawa-dera Temple (formerly located in Nakanokawa-cho, Nara, but it was demolished later).