Art/ Collection/ Art Object

春屋妙葩像 自賛
Portrait of Shun'oku Myōha (1311–1388)

Unidentified Artist Japanese
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
ca. 1383
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Image: 45 5/8 × 20 1/2 in. (115.9 × 52.1 cm) Overall: 79 × 29 3/4 in. (200.7 × 75.6 cm) Overall with knobs: 79 × 31 5/8 in. (200.7 × 80.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto, 2007
Accession Number:
Not on view
This portrait depicts the Zen priest Shun’oku Myōha seated cross-legged in a red lacquered chair with his shoes placed on a footrest. Shun’oku was a nephew and leading disciple of Musō Soseki. Shun’oku’s illustrious monastic career included abbotships at several major monasteries and top administrative positions. He was also an intimate of the first and third Ashikaga shoguns, Takauji (1305–1358) and Yoshimitsu (1358– 1408). He counted among his own disciples the priest-painter Gyokuen Bonpō.

Zen portraits of this type, called chinsō, were disseminated among followers and served a ritual function in funerals and memorial services. Shun’oku inscribed his portrait with a poem:

There are no eyes atop the head. There are eyebrows below the chin. This is everything; this is nothing. I also could not become a phoenix.
Inscribed by Myōha of Tenryū[ji] for [?] at Muryōjuin

—Trans. Anne Nishimura Morse and Samuel Morse
Inscription: There are no eyes on the top of the head
There are eyebrows under the chin,
This is everything; this is nothing.
I also could not become a phoenix.
Presented to the Muryoju-in for ------(illegible character)
Inscribed by Myoha of Tenryuji
Ryūtokuan Temple , Fushimi ; Henri Vever , France (until d. 1943; by descent to family). ; Henri Vever (sale, Sotheby's London, June 1994, Lot 17, to London Gallery) ; [ London Gallery Ltd. , Tokyo, 1995; sold to Sylvan Barnet and William Burto] ; Sylvan Barnet and William Burto , Cambridge, MA (2007; donated to MMA)
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