This elegant vision of the bodhisattva Jizō Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Ksitigarbha) playing a flute is a rare and innovative portrayal that may have been created by Kano Tan’yū himself, who, as head of the Shogun’s painting academy (edokoro), was familiar with most of the ancient paintings that had survived to his day. The few similar paintings known of a flute-playing Jizō are by Tan’yū or his followers. The gentle, boyish figure, dancing, playing a flute, and wearing both the traditional monk’s robe and the flowing scarves and jewels of a bodhisattva, combines several aspects of Jizō’s traditional iconography. Instead of lotus petals, he wears a huge, overturned lotus leaf upon his head. His monk’s staff and sacred wish-granting jewel have been replaced by a phoenix-headed flute.
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Title:Jizō Bosatsu Playing a Flute
Artist:Kano Tan'yū (Japanese, 1602–1674)
Period:Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:mid- 17th century
Medium:Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:Image: 38 3/4 in. × 15 in. (98.5 × 38.1 cm) Overall with mounting: 80 1/2 × 21 7/16 in. (204.5 × 54.5 cm) Overall with knobs: 80 1/2 × 23 5/8 in. (204.5 × 60 cm)
Credit Line:Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
In this charming but curious depiction of Jizō Bosatsu (Skt: Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha), the youthful savior of souls condemned to the Buddhist hells, he is shown riding on a swiftly descending cloud. As if to announce his coming, Jizō plays a flute. His robes flutter in the wind and his shaved head is well protected by a large lotus-leaf hat. The entire drawing is executed in ink, except for the pale green of his garment. While the plump, youthful face is delineated in fine, delicate brushlines, the garments are executed in swift, almost sketchlike strokes. Romantic and lyrical, the painting is a departure from Tan’yū's other works, which were mainly auspicious subjects and Chinese-style landscapes (cat. no. 107) popular with his upper-class warrior clientele.
While Tan’yū made few paintings of Buddhist figures, he did make numerous shukuzu (reduced sketches) of paintings of religious themes by earlier Chinese and Japanese masters. The flute-playing Jizō, known affectionately as Fuefuki Jizō, resembles to some extent an enlarged and refined shukuzu.
Tan’yū included the honorary title hōgen in his signature. The work may thus be placed between 1638, when he was granted the title, and 1665, when he was promoted to hōin. It may be compared to another Buddhist painting by Tan’yū, which depicts Fugen Bosatsu (Skt: Bodhisattva Samantabhadra) seated on an elephant. This work, in the collection of Manpukuji, Uji, forms part of a triptych with Shakyamuni and Monju Bosatsu. All three paintings—like the present work—are signed "Tan’yū hōgen hitsu" and bear the seal "Morinobu" (Tan’yū 's given name). The triptych also bears undated colophons by the monk Ingen Ryūki (Ch: Yinyuan Longqi, 1592–1673), who had immigrated to Japan after the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 and established Rinzai temples, first in Nagasaki and then at Manpukuji in 1661. The monks chose to call their sect Ōbaku, after Mount Huangbo in Fujian Province, where their temple, Wanfusi (transliterated as Manpukuji), was situated. The Fugen in the triptych and the Burke Jizō have youthful countenances and comparable facial features.
Another Shaka triad in the Manpukuji collection, by the monk-painter Itsunen Shōyu (Ch: Yiran Xiangrong, 1601–1668), is nearly identical to the Tan’yū triptych. Itsunen signed each painting and added a cyclical date corresponding to the year 1660 to the image of Shaka. The colophons (also by Ingen) on the Monju and Fugen paintings have cyclical dates that correspond to the year 1665. The strong affinity between the two triptychs suggests that the paintings may have been executed between 1656, when Tan’yū possibly had his first contact with the Ōbaku community, and 1660, the date of Itsunen's Shaka painting.
The iconography of the Burke Jizō is its most puzzling feature. Since the Late Heian period the Jizō Raigo (Descent of Jizō) had been a popular iconic image associated with Pure Land Buddhism. In such compositions, Jizō is depicted standing on a lotus pedestal amid billowing clouds. The imagery of the present work seems to derive, in part, from the raigō theme, since the figure is represented with cloud formations. However, Jizō's customary attributes, a monk's staff and the wish-granting jewel, have been replaced by a flute and a lotus hat. Equally plausible as an iconographic source is the Amida Raigō (Descent of Amida), in which the Buddha, surrounded by a host of bodhisattvas, descends to earth. One of the bodhisattvas in Amida's retinue is Hōzō Bosatsu, who plays a transverse flute in a pose which resembles that of the Burke Jizō. The lotus hat, while it seems to be without a textual source, appears relatively early in Japanese painting. Frogs wearing such hats are pictured in the celebrated twelfth-century handscrolls the Chōjū giga (Frolicking Animals and Birds), in Kozanji, Kyoto. That Tan’yū knew these scrolls, which include parodies of animals imitating monks and courtiers, is attested by his shukuzu; they may well have been a source for this motif. GWN
[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]
 Nakahashi 1990, fig. 3.  Ibid., fig. 4.  Ibid., p. 38.  Yasumura Toshinobu 1978, p. 30. Yasumura's observation is based on an entry in the Ingen Oshō unto nishū, one of a series of poetry compilations by Ingen; see Ingen 1979, vol. 6, p. 2877. See also Fuji Masaharu and Abe Zenryō 1977, p. 137.  Tanaka Ichimatsu 1959, pl. 3.  Kyoto National Museum 1980–81, vol. 1, p. 63
Signature: Tan'yu hogen hitsu
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
Tokyo National Museum. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," May 21, 1985–June 30, 1985.
Nagoya City Art Museum. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," August 17, 1985–September 23, 1985.
Atami. MOA Museum of Art. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," September 29, 1985–October 27, 1985.
Hamamatsu City Museum of Art. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," November 12, 1985–December 1, 1985.
New York. Asia Society. "Art of Japan: Selections from the Burke Collection, pts. I and II," October 2, 1986–February 22, 1987.
New York. Japan Society. "The Collector's Eye: Japanese Art Lent by the Friends of the Japan Society Gallery," May 11, 1989–June 25, 1989.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bodhisattva Jizo, Guardian of Wandering Souls," February 21–May 20, 1990.
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. "Die Kunst des Alten Japan: Meisterwerke aus der Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," September 16, 1990–November 18, 1990.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30–June 25, 2000.
Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," July 5, 2005–August 19, 2005.
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 4, 2005–December 11, 2005.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," January 24, 2006–March 5, 2006.
Miho Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 15, 2006–June 11, 2006.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–May 14, 2017.
Tsuji Nobuo 辻惟雄, Mary Griggs Burke, Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha 日本経済新聞社, and Gifu-ken Bijutsukan 岐阜県美術館. Nyūyōku Bāku korekushon-ten: Nihon no bi sanzennen no kagayaki ニューヨーク・バーク・コレクション展 : 日本の美三千年の輝き(Enduring legacy of Japanese art: The Mary Griggs Burke collection). Exh. cat. [Tokyo]: Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 2005, cat. no. 66.
Murase, Miyeko, Il Kim, Shi-yee Liu, Gratia Williams Nakahashi, Stephanie Wada, Soyoung Lee, and David Sensabaugh. Art Through a Lifetime: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection. Vol. 1, Japanese Paintings, Printed Works, Calligraphy. [New York]: Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, , p. 122, cat. no. 147.
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