Portrait of Prince Shotoku (aged 14) as a Pilgrim

Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, late 14th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 125.2 × 69.3 cm (49 5/16 × 27 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Japan, kakemono, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), pilgrimage, portrait, prince
Provenance research underway.

In the mid-sixth century, the Korean kingdom of Paekche petitioned an alliance with Japan. Two powerful Japanese clans, the Mononobe and Soga, vied for power, and after years of contention the Soga emerged victorious. A Soga, Suiko (554-628), was installed in 592 as empress of Japan; her nephew Prince Shotoku (Shotoku Taishi, 574-622) became regent and was an effective administrator who implemented pragmatic legal codes that encouraged centralization among Japan's many clans. Although he was a devout Buddhist, Shotoku nevertheless understood religion as a tool for state unification and a vehicle of continental culture.

A cult of Prince Shotoku developed soon after his death and became particularly strong in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a period of political and social unrest. Shotoku was evoked as a national founding figure and understood as a manifestation of various bodhisattvas (enlightened beings). In this unusual image, Shotoku wears the monk's robe and carries the attributes associated with Jizo Bosatsu, but retains his traditional, easily recognizable hairstyle. The resultant image suggests a melding of national and spiritual savior roles.

Published References
  • Zaigai hiho [(Japanese Paintings in Western Collections]. 3 vols., Tokyo. vol. 2, pt. I, pl. 44.
  • Tanaka Shigehisa. Shotoku Taishi Eden to Sonzu no Kenyu. Kyoto. pl. 148.
  • Mayuyama Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo. pl. 105.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 16, vol. 2: p. 157.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 103.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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