Fukūkensaku Kannon with two Guardian Deities, a hanging scroll painting

Kamakura period, late 12th century - 13th century AD

The central figure is the three-faced, four-armed bodhisattva Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara). In Japanese Buddhism Kannon is shown in may different forms. Here, he is shown as Fukūkensaku ('with the Never-empty Noose'), carrying in one hand the rope with which he captures the hearts and minds of the faithful. He sits on a white lotus on a high rock which together suggest the 'Great Womb Mandala', the central image of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism.

Bottom right stands Bishamon-ten (Vaishravana), Guardian King of the North, sword in hand. Bottom left stands the bodhisattva Shu Kongō (Vajrapani) on an earthen mound grasping a vajra (thunderbolt). These two figures appear to be based on ninth-century clay sculptures in Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara.

The painting has some interesting technical details. The artist has applied white paint through from the back of the silk (urahaku) to represent the skin of the central figure, which he has then shaded rose-colour on the surface and outlined with vermilion. The lotus petals are brightened with lines of silver paint, and in many cases the coloured outlines are drawn first then filled in. The brushwork of the rocks is particularly skilful. The back of the silk is painted with gold to strengthen the colours. The painting is a fine example of an artist of the Kamakura period (1185-1333) adapting the earlier styles of the Nara period (710-94).

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)


Height: 1230.000 mm
Width: 874.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD389 (1967.2-13.02)


Brooke Sewell Bequest Fund


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