Statue of a retired townsman

From Japan
Edo period, late 17th - early 18th century AD

Portrait in lacquered wood

In Japan it was quite common for prosperous townsmen and merchants to become lay Buddhist monks while continuing their secular lives. They believed that by having their portraits made they would preserve the well-being of their family, and its Buddhist traditions.

This statue is less than half a metre high, and yet it has a great air of solidity and calm. The fine lacquer work and pigments of his vestments survive and the crystal eyes give the figure a gently human expression.

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)


Height: 42.500 cm

Museum number

Asia JA 1885.12-27.98


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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