Bodhidharma in Red Robes

Kano Masanobu 狩野正信 Japanese

Not on view

This picture of Bodhidharma, the fifth-century Indian monk credited with transmitting Zen Buddhist teachings to China, was likely used in ritual services at a Zen monastery. Its efficacy pivots on its ability to convey the monk’s essential message of self-reflection in the pursuit of awakening—“Look inward to become a buddha”—through the gaze of the patriarch. The artist used a series of bold, layered lines in combination with washes of vermilion to render Bodhidharma’s characteristically red robes and guide the viewer’s eye to the center of the picture. There the Zen master meets the adherent with a penetrating look, calling to mind the nine years he is said to have sat in meditation, staring at the wall of a cave.

Bodhidharma in Red Robes, Kano Masanobu 狩野正信 (Japanese, ca. 1434–ca. 1530), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

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