- Museum number
Painting, hanging scroll. Portrait of young Prince Shotoku Taishi, carrying long-handled censer and praying for recovery of his sick father; with two attendants in court costume. Ink, colours and gold on silk.
- Production date
Height: 194 centimetres (mount)
Height: 105 centimetres
Width: 74 centimetres (mount)
Width: 51.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The two court officials worshipping at the foot of the pedestal may be Soga no Umako (R) and Ono no Imoko (L).
See Basil Gray, 'A New Portrait of Shotoku Taishi' in British Museum Quarterly XXVI:1-2 (1962-3), pp. 47-9, pl. XXVII
Smith et al 1990
Prince Shotoku, who reigned as Regent in the years 593-622, is revered as the 'apostle' of Japanese Buddhism. Numerous legends grew up about his life, many of them bearing a similarity to those concerning the historical Buddha, of whom he came to be considered in the popular mind almost a later incarnation. Such an opinion, of course, had no basis in Buddhist theology. Shotoku was in fact a political leader of vision and energy who completed the establishment of Buddhism as the official religion of the ruling aristocracy and hence of the country. While there is no reason to doubt his piety, he must also have seen the advantages to Japanese political unity and stability, and the civilising influences of the great religion which at that period dominated most of Asia. Among his religious achievements were the copying of scriptures and the founding of the Horyuji, Japan's most revered temple.
In the Kamakura period there was a revival of interest in Shotoku which was paralleled by renewed devotion to the historical Buddha; both can be seen as a reaction against the exoticism of the court-dominated sects of the Heian period. Kamakura-period portraits abound, of which this is one type. It is thought to show the sixteen-year-old prince holding an incense censer and praying for the health of his sick father. In the foreground are two small figures in Kamakura period court dress. The subdued splendour of colour is characteristic of the painting of the period, but the round, sweet, bland face looks back to Heian courtly traditions.
Ishida, Mosaku, 'Shotoku Taishi sonzo shusei', 2 vols, Tokyo, 1976
In this painting the sixteen-year-old prince, carrying a long-handled censer, prays for the recovery of his sick father, the Emperor Yomei. The subordinate representation of his attendants, though in the court costume of Shintō portraits, suggests Buddhist attendants, and the gentle treatment of the prince his status as an emanation of Avalokiteśvara.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2011 Feb 14- Jun 13, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'
2019 2 October - 24 November, BM Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries, 'Nara: Sacred Images from Early Japan'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.Add.370 (Japanese Painting Additional Number)