Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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北野天神縁起絵巻
Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin engi emaki)

Period:
Kamakura period (1185–1333)
Date:
late 13th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Set of five handscrolls; ink, color, and cut gold on paper
Dimensions:
a: 11 5/16 in. × 22 ft. 7 7/16 in. (28.8 × 689.4 cm) b: 11 5/16 in. × 25 ft. 3/8 in. (28.8 × 763 cm) c: 11 5/16 x 274 1/8 in. (28.8 x 696.3 cm) d: 11 5/16 x 224 15/16 in. (28.8 x 571.4 cm) e: 11 5/16 x 352 3/16 in. (28.8 x 894.5 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1925
Accession Number:
25.224a–e
Not on view
An ancient Shinto belief that the unpredictable, calamitous forces of nature are animated by tormented human spirits (onryō) underlies the legendary origin of the Kitano Tenjin shrine, dedicated to Sugawara Michizane (845–903). Michizane was a distinguished scholar, poet, and statesman who died in exile, having been slandered by enemies at court.

After his death, a series of extraordinary natural disasters and plagues caused the untimely deaths of his detractors. In an attempt to appease his vengeful spirit, he was posthumously pardoned and promoted to high office, but the disasters continued. In 942, Michizane’s spirit revealed his wish to be honored at a shrine dedicated to the thunder god in the northwestern section of the capital. He was deified as Tenjin, an ancient god of agriculture and patron of the falsely accused. Later, perhaps because poems were offered to him at the shrine, he came to be venerated as the Shinto god of literature and music. Among the more than thirty extant sets of handscrolls recounting Michizane’s life and the events leading to the establishment of the Tenjin cult, this version is second in age and quality only to the early thirteenth-century treasure in the main Kitano Tenjin shrine in Kyoto.
Taisanji Temple, Igawadani (near Kobe). ; Maeda Kenjiro ; Machida Hisanari ; Marquis Inoue Kaoru , Shizuoka (until d. 1915; by descent to family). ; [ Yamanaka & Co. , Kyoto, 1925; as agent sold to MMA]
New York. Asia House Gallery. "Asian Art in American Collections II," April 16, 1970–June 14, 1970.

New York. Asia House Gallery. "Masterworks of Japanese Buddhist Paintings from Western Collections," October 11, 1979–December 9, 1979.

Denver Art Museum. "Masterworks of Japanese Buddhist Paintings from Western Collections," March 27, 1980–May 11, 1980.

Cleveland Museum of Art. "Reflections of Reality in Japanese Art," March 15, 1983–May 1, 1983.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bodhisattva Jizo, Guardian of Wandering Souls," February 21, 1990–May 20, 1990.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Seasonal Pleasures in Japanese Art, Part II," May 1, 1996–September 8, 1996.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Resonant Image: Tradition in Japanese Art (Part One)," 1997–98.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Blossoms of Many Colors: A Selection from the Permanent Collection of Japanese Art," March 21, 2000–August 9, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Japan," August 19, 2000–February 5, 2001.

Tokyo National Museum. "Tenjin: Sugawara no Michizane and the Arts of Tenjin Worship," July 10, 2001–August 26, 2001.

Fukuoka City Museum. "Tenjin: Sugawara no Michizane and the Arts of Tenjin Worship," September 13, 2001–October 25, 2001.

Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. "Tenjin: Sugawara no Michizane and the Arts of Tenjin Worship," November 2, 2001–December 9, 2001.

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. "The Mighty Kano School: Orthodoxy and Iconoclasm," December 18, 2004–June 5, 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Autumn and Winter," June 22, 2006–September 10, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Flowing Streams: Scenes from Japanese Arts and Life," December 21, 2006–June 3, 2007.

Kyushu National Museum, Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture. "Treasures of Dazaifu Tenman-gū Shrine and the Tenjin Cult," September 23, 2008–November 30, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Storytelling in Japanese Art," November 19, 2011–May 6, 2012.

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