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Title

Male and female Shintô deities

12th century


Artist

Unknown

Japan


About

These small, yet dignified, deities are early examples of the representation of Shintō gods, or kami, in human form. They are rendered here as court nobles: the woman dons Chinese Tang-dynasty style robes and coiffure, while the man wears a tall cap and holds a sceptre, now lost, as a symbol of authority. Shintō sculptures were usually carved out of wood – often from old trees revered as the dwelling places of kami – in what is referred to as the 'single-woodblock technique' or ichiboku-zukuri. Appendages such as hands, feet and hand-held attributes were attached separately. Pigments were then applied to delineate garments, but seldom survive with the passage of time.

In Japan, anthropomorphic representations of kami were unknown before the spread of Buddhism in the 6th century. Even today, representations of deities are hidden away in the inner sanctuary of the Shintō shrines.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, September 2011


Details


Place where the work was made

Japan


Date

12th century


Media category

Sculpture


Materials used

cypress wood with traces of polychromy


Dimensions

a - male deity; 26.5 cm

b - female deity; 21 cm


Credit

D G Wilson Bequest Fund 2008


Location

Not on display


Accession number

70.2008.a-b


Artist information

Unknown

Works in the collection

36


Place

Where the work was made
Japan

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 1 publication

Bibliography


Buddha's Smile: Masterpieces of Japanese Buddhist Art, Tokyo, Nov 2002. cat.no.51, 52, p.104