The Buddhist art of the Kamakura Period in Japan (1185-1392) is one of the great religious arts and this thirteenth-century painting on silk mounted as a hanging scroll is an elegant and fine example.The Descent of Amida (raigo)
is represented. Amida Buddha is one of the leading gods of Buddhism whose cult enjoyed great power from the ninth century. He is usually shown, as here, descending to receive the adorer's soul, for he promises blissful and luxurious life in the next world. In the Mann painting he is accompanied by two divine attendants, the Bodhisattvas Seishi, shown adoring, and Kannon, shown with the Lotus Pedestal. Similar but rather inferior figures to these appear in a celebrated early thirteenth-century hanging scroll in the Senrin-ji, Kyoto.1
The Mann Scroll is especially splendid not only for the refinement of its draftsmanship, but for its color. On a muted black background, the figures are gold, the red lines of form being incisions through the gold leaf to the red ground. A light raw ochre halo surrounds Amida's head, the clouds are pale lavender. The use of color is thus austerely restricted, and there are only a few other touches: Amida's lips are scarlet, there are pink and white ribbands and some of the precious stones of the jewelry are picked out in dull tints. The richness of the gold, especially against the black, makes for a stunning effect, and the precision of the tense, flowing drawing, incomparably skillful and delicate, can be contemplated with endless pleasure.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- A closely similar but inferior painting was exhibited with an attribution to Takakane (14th century) at the Boston Art Club, September, 1936, no. 35 (Yamanaka & Company).
- Unknown Painter, Japanese, Kamakura Period (1185-1392). The Descent of Amida (Raigo), 13th century. Body color and gold leaf on silk, 33 3/8” x 14 5/8”. Gift of Dorothy Mann Cordry, Frederick M. Mann, Jr., and Eleanor Mann Olson in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Mann, 1961, 61.16.