Ten Rakan Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon

Katō Nobukiyo Japanese

Not on view

A close look at this picture reveals an extraordinary technical feat: every single element—figures, architecture, tree, even shading—is delineated in tiny Chinese characters that spell out a section of the Lotus Sutra. At once an artistic tour de force and a demonstration of remarkable religious piety, it was created by Katō Nobukiyo, a minor government official who took Buddhist vows in his early fifties. In 1788 he began creating a set of fifty-one painted scrolls. On all but one he painted ten rakan (enlightened followers of the Buddha); an image of the Buddha with attendant bodhisattvas appears on the fifty-first. In 1792 he dedicated the complete set (including this work) to Ryūkōji, temple in Edo (present-day Tokyo).

Ten Rakan Examining a Painting of White-Robed Kannon, Katō Nobukiyo (Japanese, 1734–1810), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

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