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Brahma with Attendants and Musicians

Unidentified Artist

Period:
Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)
Date:
late 16th century
Culture:
Korea
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink and color on hemp
Dimensions:
Image: 85 × 87 in. (215.9 × 221 cm) Overall with mounting: 132 × 97 in. (335.3 × 246.4 cm) Overall with knobs: 132 × 101 3/4 in. (335.3 × 258.4 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, 1921
Accession Number:
21.57
  • Description

    Originally a Hindu deity, Brahma (Korean: Beomcheon) was incorporated into the Buddhist pantheon and, along with the Hindu god Indra (Korean: Jeseok), became the protector of Buddhist teachings. This work—the only extant early Joseon painting of Brahma—formed a pair with a large painting depicting Indra and her attendants. Such sets played an integral part in Buddhist temple rituals.

    The Brahma heaven was interpreted as a place of pleasure filled with entertainers and musicians. In this work, the towering Brahma at center is surrounded by figures playing a mouth organ, a long transverse flute, a two-stringed violin (bottom row, left), a four-stringed lute with a crooked neck, wood clappers, and a triangular wind instrument made of clay (bottom row, right). To complete the festive scene, ceremonial fans and bejeweled canopies float above, held by assistants in the top row.

    Large-scale Buddhist paintings on hemp were commissioned by nonroyals, as members of the favored more delicate, costly silk. Whatever the material, Buddhist paintings from the early Joseon period are remarkable for their very existence, artistic quality and vibrancy, given the Joseon state's official suppression of Buddhism and promotion of neo-Confucian ideology.

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
39887

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