高野四所明神像 The Four Deities of Kōyasan Temple Complex
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
late 14th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Image: 37 × 16 in. (94 × 40.6 cm)
Overall with mounting: 66 1/2 × 22 1/4 in. (168.9 × 56.5 cm)
Overall with knobs: 66 1/2 × 24 1/2 in. (168.9 × 62.2 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1994
Not on view
The four deities in court dress represent a hierarchy of local Shinto gods (kami) important to Kōyasan, the great mountain-based complex of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. The upper pair comprises Kariba Myōjin (male) and Niu Myōjin (female), the gods of the mountain who welcomed the monk Kūkai (774–835) as he searched for a site on which to build a temple. The other two deities in the painting—Kehi, on the right, and Itsukushima Myōjin, playing a lute on the left—were worshiped by the Taira clan. All four deities are regarded as local manifestations of Buddhist gods: Kariba and Niu are identified with two aspects of Dainichi Nyorai (Sanskrit: Mahavairochana), Kehi with the Thousand‑Armed Kannon (Avalokiteshvara), and Itsukushima with Benzaiten (Saraswati). The pair of dogs at the bottom of the painting reference the canine companions of Kariba Myōjin, who is sometimes depicted as a hunter who is said to have guided Kūkai through the mountains.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "No Ordinary Mortals: The Human and Not-So-Human Figure in Japanese Art," 1996.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Graceful Gestures: A Decade of Collecting Japanese Art," September 29, 2001–March 10, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tribute to a Dedicated Collector: Mary Griggs Burke," June 30, 2004–November 29, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Flowing Streams: Scenes from Japanese Arts and Life," December 21, 2006–June 3, 2007.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Animals, Birds, Insects, and Marine Life in Japanese Art," June 26, 2008–November 30, 2008.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japanese Mandalas: Emanations and Avatars," June 18, 2009–November 30, 2009.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–January 22, 2017.