Bodhisattva Monju Riding a Lion


Bodhisattva Monju Riding a Lion

Paintings / Muromachi

By Reisai; inscription by Ryōkō Shinkei

Muromachi period, 15th century

Ink and gold on paper



Important Cultural Property

This is a picture of Monju Bosatsu, or Manjusri Bodhisattva in Sanskrit. It was painted by Reisai, a master of monochrome ink painting who was active during the 15th century.

Reisai's distinctive charm lies in the smooth, versatile brush lines, infused with a sense of speed. The lines of the robe shift abruptly from thin to thick, for instance, while the fine, delicate lines of the shishi lion radiate softness. His most characteristic lines are probably those curved like the letter 'W', as seen on the garment covering the Bodhisattva's feet. These lines create a sense of texture and three-dimensionality unique to Reisai's works. He certainly deserves to be called the master of lines.

Another striking feature is the use of gold pigments. Though the outline of the ceremonial scepter is sketched in black ink lines, for example, the scepter's inner section is decorated with gold lines. The other accessories of the deity are also rendered in gold. Further inspection reveals fine gold strokes painted between the ink lines of the lion's fur. Reisai's signature-seal is also written in gold to the bottom right of the lion.

These details may be hard to discern through a glass exhibition case, but feel free to take a closer look.

Finally, note how the circle of light behind the deity's head is formed by gradations of black ink, without any clear outline. This expression of radiant light is typical of monochrome ink Buddhist paintings.

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