A bronze figure of Ekadashamukha Lokeshvara, Japan, 14th century. Photo Sotheby’s
cast in separate sections from bronze with a good brown patina, portrayed in a seated posture, the right hand holding an amphora, wearing robes open at the chest, the serene face flanked by pendulous earlobes, the top of the head with apertures to accommodate additional heads Height 22 1/2 in., 57 cm. Estimation 70,000 — 90,000 USD
Provenance: Acquired privately in London, early 1980s.
Ekadashamukha Lokeshvara which literally means eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara, is referred to as Juichimen Kannon in Japan. In India, there are not many examples of eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara figures. In China this iconography emerged during the late 6th century and references to such manifestations are known to have been written in the 7th century. In Japan, this iconography appeared during the Nara period (710-794) and in 733, priest Genjo translated such texts which later gained popularity among the populace during the Heian period (794-1185). See N. Kyotaro and E. Sano, The Great Age of Japanese Buddhist Sculpture: AD 600-1300, Kimbell Art Museum/Japan Society, New York, 1983.
The eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara and the thousand-armed manifestation, are considered esoteric forms of the bodhisattva, believed to have overcome eleven hardships in order to attain Buddhahood.
In Japan, the earliest example of Ekadashamukha Lokeshvara is in a mural painting from the 7th century in Horyuji Temple Golden Hall, illustrated in T. Sawa, Art in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, New York, 1972, p. 50, no. 45. Other examples from the Nara period includes one in the Shorinji in Nara, which is a national treasure, illustrated in T. Sawa, ibid., p. 53, no. 52; and one in Kannonji in Kyoto, also illustrated in T. Sawa, ibid., p. 35, no. 29. In the Hasedera temple in Nara, there are two statues of this kind. One is a seated example and the other is standing, holding a staff on a rock. Another figure in the Todaiji Nigatsudo is said to be of Ekadashamukha Lokeshvara but as it has never been unveiled, that cannot be confirmed.
Sotheby’s. Images of Enlightenment: Devotional Works of Art and Paintings, New York | 17 sept. 2014, 10:00 AM