Nirvana of the Buddha

Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, early 14th century
Ink, color, gold, and silver on silk
H x W (image): 195.8 x 189.1 cm (77 1/16 x 74 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Buddhism, death, Japan, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), khakkhara, nirvana
Provenance research underway.

This painting depicts the death of the Historical Buddha Sakyamuni and his entry into Nirvana, whereby he gains release from the cycles of birth, rebirth, and consequent suffering. Rolled for storage for much of each year, the painting was suspended from the beams at the altar of the temple Enmeiji in Mie Prefecture for the annual ceremony celebrating the Buddha's entry into Nirvana. The variety of mourners, including deities, humans, and animals, represent the universal power of Buddha's teachings. Beginning in Japan in the eighth century, the subject of Buddha entering Nirvana eventually became so popular that images were reproduced by woodblock printing.

Published References
  • Mizuno Keisaburo. Butsu Nehan-zu. no. 883 Tokyo, October 1965. p. 30, pls. 4-5.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 45, pp. 57-58.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 60-63.
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Rebecca Bloom. Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism. Chicago, December 2017. p. 97, fig. 8.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 98.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 140-141.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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