Twelve Deva Masks

Important Cultural Property

By Kyoto National Museum

Twelve Devas Masks; Bon-ten (Brahman) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

The Twelve Devas are divine beings presiding over the eight directions plus heaven, earth, and the sun and moon. They have their origins in Hindu deities. Representations of the Twelve Devas in extant Japanese artworks are mostly found in paintings, and masks such as these are extremely rare. The Kyoto National Museum houses seven of the masks originally preserved at Toji Temple. Two more masks presumably from the same set are in the collection of the Honolulu Museum in Hawaii.

Twelve Devas Masks; Ishana-ten (Isana) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

It is thought that at Toji Temple, the masks were initially used on the occasion of the Kanjo-e (consecration ceremony), but after undergoing repair work, they were appropriated for use in the Kuyo-e (dedication ceremony) for the temple’s pagoda. In the late 10th century, Kojo, father of renowned Buddhist sculptor, Jocho, organized Buddhist sculptors into workshops, and it was at these workshops that many of the period’s sophisticated Buddhist images were created.

Twelve Devas Masks; Ka-ten (Agni) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

These masks share many of the stylistic characteristics of Buddhist sculptures made in the late 10th century, and are thought to be the Twelve Deva Masks that records state were rescued from the fire that destroyed Toji Temple’s treasure hall in the year 1000.

Twelve Devas Masks; Bon-ten (Brahman) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

Bon-ten (Brahman)

Twelve Devas Masks; Taishaku-ten (Indra) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

Taishaku-ten (Indra)

Twelve Devas Masks; Fu-ten (Vayu) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

Devas Fu-ten (Vayu)

Twelve Devas Masks; Ishana-ten (Isana) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

Ishana-ten (Isana)

Twelve Devas Masks; Bishamon-ten (Vaisravana) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

Bishamon-ten (Vaisravana)

Twelve Devas Masks; Nitten (Surya) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

Nitten (Surya)

Twelve Devas Masks; Ka-ten (Agni) (10th Century) by UnknownKyoto National Museum

Ka-ten (Agni)

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