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Tue, Apr 5, 2022

Repair work of 12th-century painting masterpiece ‘Fugen Bosatsu’ complete

The restoration of “Fugen Bosatsu” (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva), a 12th-century work of art said to be one of the greatest masterpieces of Japanese Buddhist painting, was completed at the end of March 2022 after three years of scrupulous repair work.

The repaired “Fugen Bosatsu” painting is carefully examined at the Tokyo National Museum on Mar. 31, 2022. (Photo by Ikuhiro Yoneda)

The repair work started in 2019 with financial support from the Tsumugu Project — a joint effort of Japan’s Cultural Affairs Agency, Imperial Household Agency and national daily The Yomiuri Shimbun to help preserve the nation’s artistic treasures — to deal with the deterioration of the silk canvas and paint over time.

The color-on-silk painting was one of the first works of Japanese art to be designated as “national treasure” by the central government according to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties enacted in postwar Japan.

What is ‘Fugen Bosatsu’?

     – Buddhist painting produced during the Heian period (794-1192)

     – Artist, provenance unknown

     – Shows Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Fugen Bosatsu) riding on a white elephant with his legs crossed and appearing before the faithful (believers in the Lotus Sutra, a collection of Buddhist teachings) as flower petals flutter down

     – One of the first works of art to be designated as “national treasure” by the Japanese government under the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties

     – Color on silk; 159.1 by 74.5 cm

     – Currently owned by the Tokyo National Museum

The initial plan was to finish the repair work in about two and a half years. However, it was learned that the glue used to attach the hadaura-gami (initial lining paper) to the painting was slightly colored, which made removing the old glue in the process of fixing the lining more strenuous and time-consuming.

On the other hand, the conservators found that the technique of urazaishiki (applying color to the other side of the painting) was used by the painting’s unknown artist to take advantage of the translucency of the silk and enhance the brilliance of the painting.

A specialist for cultural properties from the Cultural Affairs Agency noted that the quality of the work done was exemplary and, as a result, “the fairness of Fugen Bosatsu’s complexion and the rich colors of his robe stand out more.”

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun and other sources)

Go to TSUMUGU Gallery for a detailed description of the painting:



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