Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Shakyamuni Conquering the Demons (Shaka Gōma-zu)

Artist:
Kawanabe Kyōsai (Japanese, 1831–1889)
Period:
Meiji period (1868–1912)
Date:
ca. 1888
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Album leaf mounted as a hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
Dimensions:
14 1/2 x 11 in. (36.8 x 27.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Charles Stewart Smith Collection, Gift of Mrs. Charles Stewart Smith, Charles Stewart Smith Jr., and Howard Caswell Smith, in memory of Charles Stewart Smith, 1914
Accession Number:
14.76.61.51
Not on view
This scene probably depicts an episode from the life of Shaka (Skt: Sakyamuni), the historical Buddha, the attack of the demon king Mara. Shaka Buddha was able however, to defeat Mara and his army and thus attain enlightenment. Some pictorial elements modify the conventional iconography: a flaming dragon replaces the demonic human figure usually representing Mara; a rock cave stands in for the bodhi tree as a place of contemplation; and Buddha's hand is in the prayer gesture. Traditional pictorial elements for representing the historical Buddha in this 19th century painting are the tuft between Buddha's brows (urna) and the cranial bump on his head (usnisa). This complex presentation of Buddha's enlightenment contains elements familiar from other Buddhist iconic representations, for instance, the outdoor settings of Buddha Descending the Mountain (Shussan Shaka) or of Rakan, who is often represented as is Shaka in this album leaf, with a dragon.

The painter, Kyōsai was one of the few Meiji painters whose paintings were collected and appreciated in the West. The powerful subject matter of this painting contrasts with the refined execution of very fine gold on silk.
Signature: Jokū Kyōsai zu
Charles Stewart Smith , New York (until d. 1909; by descent to his heirs). ; Mrs. Charles Stewart Smith , Charles Stewart Smith Jr., and Howard Caswell Smith, New York (until 1914; donated to MMA).
Ithaca. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. "The Arts and Crafts of the Meiji Period," April 16, 1980–June 29, 1980.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art," March 4, 1984–May 20, 1984.

Art Institute of Chicago. "Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art," June 30, 1984–August 26, 1984.

New York. Brooklyn Museum. "Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art," November 1, 1984–February 10, 1985.

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