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Amida Buddha with Attending Bodhisattvas

Past Exhibition

Heaven & Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism

June 16, 2017–September 10, 2017

Cowden Gallery

Amida Buddha with Attending Bodhisattvas, Japan, Edo period, late 18th century, Wood with gold, pigment, metal, and headstones, 22 x 18 x 9 in., San Antonio Museum of Art, gift of Lenora and Walter F. Brown, 2013.38.262

Heaven and Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism, brings together approximately seventy paintings, sculptures, and works of decorative arts to survey the artistic expressions of the Pure Land faith. Pure Land Buddhism is based on belief in Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, who promises salvation in his heavenly paradise after death to all those who will simply call upon his name. The appeal of easy salvation made faith in Amitabha one of the most popular forms of Buddhism throughout Asia, where it inspired the development of beautiful and diverse works of art.

To introduce the subject, the exhibition includes a selection of works from the continent of Asia, such as the Gandhara region of India, Southeast Asia, China, Tibet, and Korea, which show the endurance of Pure Land motifs across continents for a thousand years. The majority of the show is focused on Japanese works of art that illustrate how Amitabha will descend to earth from his heaven to greet a dying soul, scenes of hell, the numerous divine beings that are put on earth to guide the faithful and assist those who have fallen into hell escape that terrible fate.

Lenders to the exhibition include the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Cleveland Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Philadelphia Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Curated by Emily Sano, PhD, the Coates-Cowden-Brown Senior Advisor for Asian Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the former director of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the exhibition is also be accompanied by a catalog. 


This exhibition is generously funded by the Elizabeth Huth Coates Charitable Foundation of 1992, the Theodore and Doris Lee Family Foundation, the Marcia & Otto Koehler Foundation, the Pilkington Foundation Anglo-Japanese Cultural Foundation, Allen Bennett, and Dr. Robert Clemons.

Exhibition Gallery

Amida Rising Over the Mountains
Amida Rising Over the Mountains Japan, Edo period, 17th century, Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk, 67 x 41 x 2 1/2 in., Vanessa and Henry Cornell Collection Photography by Ylva Erevall
Eighteen Arhats, detail
Eighteen Arhats (Iuohans), (detail), China, Qing dynasty, Reign of the Qianlong emperor, 1736–1795, Ink and colors on bodhi leaves; eighteen leaves, each 11 x 7 in. Courtesy of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, The Avery Brundage Collection, B65D4.1-.18 Photography © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Bowing Buddha
Bowing Buddha, Japan, Edo period, 17th-18th century, Gilt wood, 28 x 14 x 9 in., Vanessa and Henry Cornell Collection. Photography by Ylva Erevall
Guanyin Bodhisattva
Guanyin Bodhisattva (Avalokiteśvara), China, Song-Yuan dynasty, mid-13th century, Wood with traces of pigment and gilt, 50 x 29 x 16 in. San Antonio Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Bessie Timon Endowment and Lenora and Walter F. Brown, 85.58. Photography by Peggy Tenison
Hungry Ghosts, detail
Hungry Ghosts, Japan, Edo period, ca. 1800, Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk, 86 1/8 x 33 ½ in., Private Collection. Photography by Peggy Tenison
Shrine (Butsudan), Japan, Edo period, ca. 1800, Wood, lacquer, pigment, gilt, and metal, 33 x 16 x 13 inches (closed), Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Dileep and Martha Mehta, 2000.256a-d. Photography by Sean Pathasema
Thinking Bohisattva, detail
Thinking Bodhisattva, India, Gupta period, 4th–6th century C.E., Afghanistan, Hadda region, Gandharan culture, Terracotta, 32 ¾ x 24 ½ x 10 ½ in., Dallas Museum of Art, Wendover Fund, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and the General Acquisitions Fund, 2010.17 Photo courtesy Dallas Museum of Art
Mariko Mori, (Japanese, born 1967) Nirvana, 1996–97, Video, Six minutes, six seconds, The Mori Art Collection, Tokyo © Mariko Mori

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