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Statue of a retired townsman
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PORTRAIT SCULPTURE became an important art form in Japan during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). The subjects were usually aristocrats, military men and monks, and the sculptures were made to be venerated by later generations in temples, palaces or great houses. Portrait sculpture gradually became more popular, particularly during the Edo period (1600-1868).

Society had become more stable and portraits were now also commissioned by samurai, artisans and the newly prosperous merchants. They were kept in a miniature shrine in the home, shop or workshop and were therefore usually small.

This statue portrait in lacquered wood depicts a man of mature years wearing the clothing of a merchant but with his head shaved in the style of a Buddhist monk. In Japan it was quite common for prosperous townsmen and merchants to become lay Buddhist monks while continuing their secular lives.

Statue of a retired townsman

From Japan. Edo period, late 17th-early 18th century AD Ht 42.5 cm
Gift of Sir A. W. Franks

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