H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Not on view
Embroidered Buddhist images were first made in India and then introduced through central Asia to China. They were of great importance during the Six Dynasties and the T'ang period, when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. Embroideries, often quite large, were prominent among the icons of the Asuka and Nara periods, from the sixth through the ninth centuries and were used mainly as wall hangings in temple lecture halls. Because of the popularization of belief in Amida's saving vows during the Kamakura period and into the fourteenth century, embroidered images many times copies of paintings in temple collections, were revived for use as devotional icons. They were often the product of pious groups seeking to perform meritorious works. Kamakura embroideries are distinguished by their rich variety of subject matter and colors, small size and intricate stitching technique. By the Muromachi period (1392–1568), these embroidered Buddhist images (shūbutsu) became more conventionalized and were almost exclusively Amida Raigō, though this piece is an exception.
This fragment of a banner depicting Manifestations of Kannon (Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit) is an unusual example of a temple hanging. Manifestations of Kannon were objects of worship at rites held by families to assist a deceased member, along the path to the other world. Each of the six manifestations of Kannon was associated with one of the Six Realms of Existence. According to the embroidered inscriptions, which indicate a liturgical use for this piece, the thousand-armed Senju Kannon, feted on the twelfth day [after death], is seated on the lotus throne to the left, and on the right is the six-armed Nyōirin Kannon bearing the nyōi-hōju jewel and the Wheel of the Law, feted on the twenty-second day [after death]. The sun and the moon, symbols of Kannon's eternal presence, float above each figure, backed by the mountains of paradise.
Signature: Inscriptions on right: Sen–ju Kanzeon go–en–nichi jushichi–nichi (The Thousand–armed Kannon [whose] fête–day [is] the twenty-second day)
Inscriptions on left: Nyo–i–rin Kanzeon go–en–nichi nijuni nichi (The as–you–like–it–wheel Kannon [whose] fête–day [is] the twenty-second day)