Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Dakini

Period:
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on hemp
Dimensions:
29 1/2 x 13 in. (74.9 x 33 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, in honor of Wen C. Fong, 2000
Accession Number:
2000.274
Not on view
Seated atop a white fox on a cloud held aloft by a pair of dragons is a young woman in fluttering, majestic raiment. She grasps a vajra sword in her right hand; in her left palm, she gently cradles a triad of sacred jewels.

The figure is a Japanese vision of Dakini, an ancient Hindu deity. According to Esoteric Buddhist texts, Dakini was originally a man-eating demoness transformed by the Buddha Mahavairocana (Dainichi Nyorai) into a powerful, life-engendering divinity. This icon embodies powers of fecundity that were invoked in imperial enthronement rituals as well as in personal contexts, and it is a telling example of medieval Japan’s complex interaction of Buddhism, Shinto kami worship, and Daoist yin-yang practices. The procreative power of the deity readily led to her assimilation with the ancient Shinto fox deity Inari, and to associations with another Hindu deity, Saraswati, who is associated with all that flows, from water to music.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Enlightening Pursuits," February 28, 2001–August 5, 2001.

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. "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. "A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Summer and Autumn in Japanese Art," June 24, 2011–October 23, 2011.

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