VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Luohan Kashyapa
Vp 19
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Kashyapa was the oldest of Buddha’s disciples. He was reputed for his moral integrity and aesthetic discipline. After Buddha’s death, he assumed the leadership of the Sangha. In Chinese temples, the statue is often placed in the main hall, on the right side in front of the Buddha (with Ananda on the left). Luohan Kashyapa is seated on a rock. He wears a loose, richly gathered robe. A kasaya is draped over his left shoulder, with its loose end resting on the arm and partly on the knees. The posture of the raised right arm suggests that his hand once clutched a staff. The left forearm rests freely on the left knee. Kashyapa’s wrinkled face is modelled with great naturalism. Deep wrinkles furrow the brow and around the mouth. The practice of the naturalistic portrayal of luohans culminated in Chinese sculpture in the 11th-12th centuries. The back of the statue has a rectangular opening, which is now covered. The luohan’s feet were modelled separately; affixed to a peg, they are removable. This luohan is one of some ten well-preserved, larger-size ancient wooden and bronze statues owned by the National Gallery. Owing to its naturalistic execution and compelling expression, it surpasses the others in quality.

History of the Object
In Hinayana tradition, the Chinese term luohan (Sanskrit: arhat) is an expression for a saint. After this tradition was introduced to China, arhats became notable figures in Chinese Chan Buddhism, as they attained enlightenment through their own effort. The earliest representation of a luohan in China dates to the 7th century, but it became particularly popular in the 9th and 10th centuries. Most commonly, there are sixteen or eighteen figures of luohan with highly individualized features, which decorate the main halls of temples. This statue was formerly in the collection of Josef Martínek (1888-1976), who settled in China in the early years of the 20th century and who, in the 1920s, worked as the director of the British customs office in Shanghai. During his sojourn in China, he intensively devoted himself to collecting Asian art. He focused his collecting endeavors on funerary figures, ancient bronzes, Buddhist art and painting. In 1930 and 1931, he organized exhibitions in Prague, thus arousing the Czech public’s interest in Chinese art. In 1930, the Czechoslovak State purchased a part of Martínek’s collection. Objects from his collection were also incorporated into other European museums. This Luohan Kashyapa statue arrived in Bohemia no later than 1931, as it was included in the catalogue to Martínek’s exhibition.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Polychrome wood 
Measurements
Height 99 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 11th century ~ AD 11th century 
Creation date
11th Century; Liao Dynasty 
Function
religious sculpture 
Acquisition
Purchased in 1980, originally in the collection of Josef Martínek 
Copyright
National Gallery in Prague 
Acknowledgements
Patra Pollákova, Ladislav Kesner, Lubor Hájek 
Owner
National Gallery in Prague 
Museum
The National Gallery 
Credit line
National Gallery in Prague 

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