Height: 325.000 mm (approx.)
Asia JA JP ADD85 (1931.11-16.01)
Rooms 92-94: Japan
Shōtoku Taishi e-den ('Illustrated biography of Prince Shōtoku Taishi'), fragments from a set of hanging scroll paintings
Muromachi period, early 16th century AD
An example of the narrative tradition in Yamato-e style
Prince Shōtoku Taishi (573-622) is regarded as the founder of Japanese Buddhism. Soon after his death he became an object of widespread veneration. For a number of centuries many tales - some true, others fictional - were passed down and illustrated first in large-scale wall paintings, and later, in the more convenient hanging scroll format suitable for illustrating sermons.
This painted scene is one of nine separate fragments from what was probably originally a set of hanging scrolls; scenes from Shōtoku's life would have been arranged in chronological sequence down through the compositions of each scroll. Most of the surviving scenes are from his early life, but with a few also from his later years. The illustration here shows the Prince's birth on the left and on the right the four-year-old Shōtoku praying for his father. This lack of right to left chronology proves that this is an assemblage of fragments.
I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)