Detail View: The AMICA Library: Buddha Head

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Korean
Creator Name-CRT: 
Korea, Late Unified Silla Period, 668-935 or early Koryo Period, 918-1392
Buddha Head
Title Type: 
Full View
Creation Date: 
10th century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
cast iron
Style or Period: 
Korea, Late Unified Silla Period, 668-935 or early
Overall: 41.8cm x 33.7cm x 32.1cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund
The introduction of Buddhism into Korea at the end of the 4th century ad transformed that country's culture and society. Sacred texts (sutras), interpreting the ideas contained within this new faith, were the fundamental tools used in worship services. Later, sculptural images representing deities in the Buddhist pantheon were made. Cast in bronze, cut from stone, or formed from clay or lacquer, these icons became standard visual symbols of Korean Buddhism and represented the primary focus of worship services at the temples built to enshrine them. An early history of the Three Kingdoms period (57 bc-ad 668) describes Kyºngju, the capital of the Silla state and the home of Korean Buddhism as a spectacle of 'temples scattered like stars in the sky.'During the Unified Silla Period (ad 668-935) monumental bronze, stone, and cast iron images were fabricated for installation in temples in the Kyºngju area. Cast iron in fact became the preferred (and more economical) medium toward the end of the period, and its use extended into the following Koryº era (ad 918-1392). The casting of these large, iron images involved preparing several elaborate clay molds into which molten iron was poured and then allowed to cool. The various sections were then joined together forming the whole image, usually a seated figure. It was then covered with gold paint and other colorful pigments, producing a radiant icon.Today, perhaps ten cast iron sculptures survive, most of which have suffered damage. They are located either in Buddhist worship halls or in the collections of the national museums of Korea. This head is a rare example in a western collection. The National Museum of Korea, Seoul owns a complete, seated image whose narrower propor-tions and more sharply defined facial features (see photo) suggest it was made not long before the Cleveland head.
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