Aizen Myōō

Artist/maker unknown, Japanese

Geography:
Made in Japan, Asia

Period:
Nambokuchö Period (1333-1392)

Date:
14th century

Medium:
Colors and cut gold on silk; mounted as a hanging scroll

Dimensions:
45 x 27 3/4 inches (114.3 x 70.5 cm) Mount: 88 x 36 inches (223.5 x 91.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

Object Location:

* Gallery 243, Asian Art, second floor

Accession Number:
1960-7-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with the John T. Morris Fund, 1960

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Label:
Aizen Myōō is one of the Five Kings of Bright Wisdom, the ferocious guardian deities of Esoteric Buddhism. This meticulously executed painting presents this deity in the typical manner, wearing a lion-mask hat while sitting on a lotus throne with a fierce expression. He holds in his richly jeweled arms the symbols of his power—the thunderbolt, a bell, bow and arrow, and a lotus flower. This scroll dates to the fourteenth century, when the worship of the Wisdom Kings was particularly popular as their protection was invoked against the Mongols who were then attacking Japan; the ultimate failure of the invasions served to bolster belief in the efficacy of these deities.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    The depictions of multi-armed deities are among the most impressive works of Japanese Buddhism. Here the central image is Aizen Myöö, one of the five Kings of Bright Wisdom who are the ferocious guardian deities of Esoteric Buddhism. He holds in his richly jeweled arms the symbols of his power--the thunderbolt, bell, bow and arrow, and lotus--as he sits on a lotus pedestal supported by a dragon vase, from which jewels scatter onto the floor. The fine detailing of the robe, jewelry, and vase is done in cut gold. His expression is fierce, and his body is as red as the setting sun, with flames of passion emanating from his head. The red of his body shows gradations in shading, an unusual feature in Buddhist painting. This scroll dates to the fourteenth century, when the worship of the Wisdom Kings was particularly popular as their protection was invoked against the Mongols who were attacking Japan; the ultimate failure of the invasions served to bolster belief in the efficacy of these deities. Felice Fischer, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 39.

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