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painting / hanging scroll

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Painting, hanging scroll. Bust of Daruma (Bodhidharma) with piercing eyes, strongly marked eyebrows, beard and chest hair, large nose, and massive body. Ink on paper. Inscribed on reverse of mount. With paulownia storage box. Inscription by Imei is found on the back of the painting. This inscription explains about ‘mokuhitsu’.


  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 16thC(late)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 76.8 centimetres
    • Width: 38.9 centimetres
    • Height: 166.5 centimetres (mount)
    • Width: 55 centimetres (mount)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        Back of painting
      • Inscription Content

        相阿彌所画不可疑者也 未見彼木筆而此幅用 木筆可怪想夫時之戯 耳然風致超逸使人起敬
  • Curator's comments

    Smith et al 1990

    Daruma (died c. AD 532) was the semi-legendary founder of the Zen, or meditative, Buddhist movement, which he brought to China where it developed a notably East Asian character. To paint his portrait in brush and ink became in Japan from the thirteenth century onwards one of the exercises which could help achieve 'satori' (enlightenment). Both the unconventional power of insight and the quirky humour attributed to the patriarch are found in this painting, and these aspects were encouraged in Zen training. By tradition he is given an 'Indian' appearance, with black beard, bushy eyebrows, sunken eyes, large nose and long ears (the last also generally symbolic of Buddhist sanctity).

    The strength of this painting comes from its intense black brushwork, itself derived from the Chinese calligraphic tradition adopted by Zen masters. There is no support for the attribution to Soami (c. 1455-1525), curator of paintings to the Ashikaga shogun, though the painting is from the same period.

    Kyoto National Museum, 'Zen no bijutsu', Kyoto, 1983Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 3

    Bodhidharma, traditionally revered as the founder of Zen Buddhism in China, is to a large extent a legendary figure. The piercing eyes, strongly marked eyebrows, beard and chest hair, large nose, and massive body are probably intended to convey that he was a foreigner - an Indian. The compressed lips and intently fixed gaze suggest the strength of determination that earned him the epithet of 'wall-contemplating "brahmin"' a reference to the fact that he was reputed to have spent a large number of years seated meditating before a wall. Pictures such as this that show him half-length were in most cases produced for hanging in shrines dedicated to him, or for use on the traditional anniversary of his death, much in the tradition of 'chinzo', the portraits of themselves given to their followers by high-ranking Buddhist monks.


  • Bibliography

    • Smith et al 1990 39 bibliographic details
    • Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 3 5 bibliographic details
    • Morrison 1911 vol. 1, pl. XXIV bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
    1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
    2003 22 Oct-2004 4 Jan , London, National Gallery; 'Bill Viola: The Passions'
    2006 Oct 13-2007 Feb 11, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
    2007 Oct 10-2008 Feb 17, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
    2012 Jun – Oct, BM Japanese Galleries ‘Japan from Prehistory to Present’

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    The collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings belonging to Arthur Morrison was purchased by Sir William Gwynne-Evans, who presented it to the British Museum in 1913.

  • Department


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Jap.Ptg.362 (Japanese Painting Number)
Kakemono. General subject - deity. Daruma.

Kakemono. General subject - deity. Daruma.

Image description



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Object reference number: JCF4894

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