Triptych of hanging scrolls; ink and color on paper
46 1/2 x 19 in. (118.1 x 48.3 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin J. Levy, 1963
Not on view
The practice of displaying a religious painting between two secular paintings, usually landscapes, began in earnest in the Muromachi period (1392–1568). The contrast and interaction between the otherworldly space of the central Buddhist figure and the more concrete space and seasonal time of landscape in this world plays visually with notions of duality and nonduality that concerned much Zen metaphysical thought. Which world is truly the here and now? Kano Koi's rendition of Kannon as a feminine figure being poled across a river by a figure who may be Bodhidharma (Daruma, in Japanese) takes the elision between religious and secular worlds a step further. His characteristic brushwork delineates Kannon less as an object of worship than as a personal expression; here it seems to embody serenity. The flanking landscapes, each a conventional meditative appreciation of landscape painted in a Chinese style, have a vastly different scale than the central scene, which underscores the contrast between the immediacy of the Kannon depiction and the contemplative distance of the classic, timeless landscape. Oddly or purposefully, the secular world seems even further removed and even more transcendent than the religious one.
Marking: Seals: .1 and .2 (lower right); .3: (lower left)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Seasonal Pleasures in Japanese Art (Part One)," October 12, 1995–April 28, 1996.