Nyoirin Kannon (Cintamani-cakra)

  • Kamakura period
  • 13-14c
  • Hanging scroll, color on silk
  • H-80.7 W-36.4
    Formerly in the collection of the Yuasa family
Catalogue Entry

Kamakura period, 13th to 14th centuries
Hanging scroll, color on silk
Height, 80.7cm; width, 36.4cm

Nyoirin Kannon is one of the Six Kannon manifestations and is the Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) who embodies the merit of the nyoi jewel which gives wealth to the masses and that of the horin, wheel of the law, which saves the masses from calamity. This deity appears in 2-armed, 4-armed, 6-armed, 10-armed, and 12-armed forms, but the most common depiction is the 6-armed form as described in Kongochi's (Vajrabodhi) transcription of the Kanjizai Nyoirin Bosatsu Yuga Hoyo. According to the sutras, this deity has an entirely gold body, kebutsu figures appear in the deity's crown, the first right hand touches the cheek, the second right hand holds the nyoi jewel, the third right hand holds a rosary. The first left hand is extended and rests on the Mt. Potalaka the second left hand holds a lotus flower, and the third left hand holds the sacred wheel. While the present work is based on this iconography, an additional motif of a dragon twining around a mountain peak is shown in the background. As explained in the Kegon Sutra and other texts, this mountain is an image of Mt. Potalaka, the site of Kannon's paradise, and there are many examples of this kind of iconography in paintings beginning in the late Heian period.

Kannon's body is painted in gold paint, and the details are picked out in cinnabar red lines. There is no cut gold leaf use in the drapery motifs, only polychrome and gold paint motifs are used. The johaku has a tan red ground with gold paint cloud and mist motifs, and the mo is painted in a dark red ground with polychrome grouped floral motifs and white linked thunder motifs. Further, the drapery lines in the mo have cinnabar red lines layered on top of the black ink lines.

Normally, the Mt. Potalaka form seen at the first left hand of the figure is shown in Heian period painting as a small gold-colored boulder placed on top of the figure's pedestal, but this element is shown in the present work as a protrusion from the mountain behind the figure. This is one of the characteristics of Nyoirin iconography from the Kamakura period and reveals the desire to depict a more realistic form of the image. Here gold paint is used in this protruding area, and thus this section of the rock is sanctified, separate from the background mountain. The sacred wheel seen in the third left hand is shown from above and at an angle, and this depictive method is also indicative of the artist's realistic intentions.

The flowering tree in the background shares some of the sensibilities found in the Chion'in "Fast Raigo" image, and the combination of the overall appearance and the depiction of the motifs indicates that the work can be considered to have been created in the latter half of the Kamakura period. A black ink seal reading "Yuasakezo" impressed on the folded paper on the lid of the box for the painting indicates the former owner of the work. TI