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Historical Buddha Shakyamuni with the bodhisattvas Fugen (Samantabhadra) and Monju (Manjushri)
15th century


Muromachi period

Color and gold on silk
H: 115.2 W: 58.9 cm
Japan

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1907.652

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Buddhist deities are often painted and displayed at altars in groups of three or more-typically a Buddha at the center and his attendant bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) to the left and right. Here the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni sits on a lotus-shaped throne with his attendants: Fugen to his right, holding a lotus and seated on an elephant, and Monju, seated on a lion, to his left. Surrounding the Buddha and the heads of the bodhisattvas are circular halos representing light and wisdom emanating from the sacred figures. Ornate patterns embellished with gold are typical of traditional Buddhist paintings, which honor deities through resplendent decoration.