Japanese Buddhist sculpture in Norwich

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I managed to incorporate a trip to Norwich into the family vacation, where I was blown away by the collections on display at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. The museum is out of town, on the campus of the University of East Anglia (UEA). It benefits from a soaring glass and steel building, designed by Norman Foster in the late 1970s.

The collections are primarily those built up by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury and are presented in one vast space. The objects and pictures are from all over the world and span 5000 years of global history, but presenting them in this way enables the space to unify the artworks, encouraging the viewer to embrace connections and correspondences.

The Buddhist sculpture from Japan is a definite highlight. There are several fine bronzes: figures of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of healing; small figures of Tanjo butsu, the Buddha at birth; the seated figure of Amida, the Buddha of the Western Paradise. Equally impressive are pieces carved in wood: the fragmentary seated figure of Buddha Dainichi Nyorai, the cosmic Buddha; the standing figure of Jizo Bosatsu.  The craftsmanship is brilliant, the expressive qualities of the figures fully realised.

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Norwich, Norfolk
Permanent collections

Above: Standing Yakushi Nyorai, Buddha of Healing. Nara period (710-794). Bronze with traces of gilding. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Photo: STF.

Below: Yakushi Nyorai, Buddha of Healing. Later Heian to early Kamakura period, 12th to 13th c. Bronze. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Photo: STF.

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Below: Two figures of Tanjo butsu, the Buddha at Birth. Nara period (710-794). Left figure: gilt bronze. Right figure: bronze. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Photo: STF.

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Below: Seated Amida, the Buddha of the Western Paradise. Kamakura period (1185-1333). Gilt bronze. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Photo: STF.

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Below: The same seated Amida, viewed from behind so that you see the construction. Photo: STF.

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Below: Fragment of seated figure of Buddha Dainichi Nyorai, the Cosmic Buddha. Late Heian period (794-1185), ca. 1000. Wood, traces of lacquer. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Photo: STF.

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Below: Standing Jizo Bosatsu. Kamakura period (1185-1333). Wood, pigment, metal, glass. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Photo: STF.

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