Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown


Pensive Bodhisattva




The pensive bodhisattva is posed with its right leg crossed over its left knee, while its right hand touches its cheek, in deep meditation. The origin of Buddha statues of this style is the figure of Prince Siddhartha in contemplation as he ponders the four phases of life (birth, old age, sickness, and death). First established in India, a countless number of the Pensive Bodhisattva was produced in China but not until it came to Korea did it reach a high level of artistic completion and become adopted as a main object of worship.


The pensive bodhisattva statue that is Korean National Treasure No. 83 is 93.5 cm tall. It is also called Gilt-bronze Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown. It is the largest of the bronze pensive bodhisattva statues, and shows an incomparable artistic beauty. The crown decoration is simplified as much as possible, as are the bracelets and necklaces, and there is no mantle. The body is expressed realistically, marking a significant point of stylistic change in Buddhist art. It is simple, yet perfectly proportional. It has a gentle smile on the face, and the image as a religious object of worship adds to the sublime beauty of the natural drapery folds on the pedestal, the vivid facial expression, and highly elaborate casting work. That said, there is no denying that the Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown holds a special place in the art world. 


The face is supple and the necklaces and bracelets on the body and arms have been minimized, so that the bracelets barley show. The focus on expressing the body, and the supple and organic connection between the face, arms, chest, and waist make this statue a groundbreaking work. The finger resting lightly on the cheek betrays a subtle movement and the five toes of the sculpture, giving the whole a sense of stability, which is characteristic of Baekje art. The skirt draped over the pedestal falls in a beautiful series of folds, as if being blown by a gentle breeze, giving the statue a wonderful sense of vitality. The folds of the skirt support the right knee but in previous statues, the shape is clearly defined. In this statue, however, it is expressed simply as an abstract mass. With its supple face, beautiful modeling of the upper body, graceful folds, and overall stable proportions, the Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown has a special place in the history of Korean and world art.


In addition, as it is very similar to the wooden pensive bodhisattva statue at Koryu-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan, it is considered by some to be the work that introduced Korean Buddhist statues to ancient Japan.




Pensive Bodhisattva

Location: Buddhist Scupture Gallery at the Sculpture and Crafts section (3rd Floor)

Period/Date: Three Kingdom Period, Early 7th century

Accession no. Deoksu 3312

National Treasure no. 83


 * This article is extracted from the NMK Magazine Vol.04


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