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Unformatted text preview: s one of the principal
symbols of centralized court rule in Japan. Its loss must have struck many
as an irrefutable sign that the country had come to final disaster in the
age of mappò. Yet, tragic though it was, the burning of the Tòdaiji actually stimulated a minor renaissance in the art of the Nara period.
This renaissance came about when, shortly after the end of hostilities
between the Taira and Minamoto in 1185, a drive was undertaken to raise
funds for rebuilding the Tòdaiji. Generous contributions were acquired
from members of both the courtier and warrior elites, including the
new ruler of Kamakura, Yoritomo. Before long, Nara was bustling with 94 The Canons of Medieval Taste activity, as work was begun at the sites of both the Tòdaiji and the
Kòfukuji, another major temple devastated by the Taira. Jobs were made
available to artists and craftsmen, and new attention was focused on the
former seat of imperial rule and its art treasures.
The Nara renaissance of the late twelfth century gave particular
opportunity for fame to a group of scholars known as the “kei” school
(from the fact that its members all used “kei” in their assumed names).
The most distinguished member of this school was Unkei (dates unknown), whose familiarity with the Tempyò art of his native Nara is evident in such realistic pieces as the statues in wood at the Kòfukuji of two
historical personages of Indian Buddhism. Stylistically, the statues are
reminiscent of the dry lacquer image, noted in Chapter 2, of the blind
priest Ganjin, who emigrated from China in the eighth century to found
one of the “six sects” of Nara Buddhism.
Although not a member of the warrior class, Unkei has been called a
samurai sculptor because most of his surviving works seem to be imbued
with the vigor and strength of the new military age. No doubt these general qualities of vigor and strength, so different from the softness and even
femininity of Fujiwara art, derived at least in part from Unkei’s familiarity
with the styles of other, earlier art epochs, incl...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13