The Final Death of the Buddha Sakyamuni (Parinirvana or Nehan) Artist, attributed to: Myōson (Japanese, active early to mid-14th century)


Asian Art

Not on view

Celebrated in mid-February, the final passing of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (in Japanese, Shaka) marks the most important event of his many lifetimes: the moment when he finally escaped from the endless, torturous cycle of life and death. The reactions of the animals and figures depicted in this hanging scroll, both semidivine and human—including Shakyamuni’s mother Maya, who descends from the sky on a cloud bank at the right—attest to the depth of their spiritual understanding. With the exception of the monk Subhadhra, all of the figures cry in distress, as do the animals moaning and writhing in the foreground. Subhadhra, who is seated calmly in front of the right corner of the bier, correctly comprehends that this final passing is a liberation and not a tragedy.


Hanging scroll: ink, color, gold pigment, and cut gold on silk


without mounting: 67 5/16 × 58 3/4 in. (171 × 149.2 cm)
with mounting: 115 3/8 × 69 1/2 in. (293 × 176.5 cm)
with rollers: 73 1/16 in. (185.5 cm)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds from The Japan Foundation Endowment of the Council on East Asian Studies and the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund

Accession Number



Kamakura period (1185–1333) or Nambukucho period (1333–92)


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



According to seller Leighton Longhi, this work was possibly sold through Yamanaka and Company. The Nehan-zu was originally mounted together with the Han'nya Bosatsu now in the Burke Collection. They were mounted like large screen panels and hinged together with metal hinges. The Han'nya Bosatsu according to Leighton Longhi had a Yamanaka tag attached to it. Since the two paintings were hinged together, this suggests that both paintings came through Yamanaka. Leighton Longhi also had a note indicating "Colby Collection" in Los Angeles. Purchased in 2005 by the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

  • Mimi Hall Yiengpruksawan, "The Interstitial Buddha: Picturing the Death of Sakyamuni," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007): 44–63, ill. cover and back cover, fig. 1–4, 6.
  • Sadako Ohki, "Japanese Art at Yale," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007): 42.
  • Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 142–43 (detail), 145, pl. 131.
  • Kokka Magazine no. 1263 (2001).
  • Takeo Izumi, Butsuga no zokei (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1995).
  • Genzo Nakano, "Nehanzu," Nihon no Bijutsu no. 268 (1988).
  • Carolyn Wheelwright, "Late Medieval Japanese Nirvana Painting," Archives of Asian Art 38 (1985): 67–94.
  • Genzo Nakano, Nihon bukkyo kaiga kenkyu, Shohan (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1982).
  • "Bukkyo Bijutsu dai 14 satsu," Bukkyo Bijutsu 14 (1929).

Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

human figures (visual works)


Buddha death

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