Asian Art
Artist, attributed to: Myoson, active early to mid-14th century

The Final Death of the Buddha Sakyamuni (Parinirvana or Nehan)

1320–40

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

without mounting: 67 5/16 x 58 3/4 in. (171 x 149.2 cm) with mounting: 115 3/8 x 69 1/2 in. (293 x 176.5 cm) with rollers: 73 1/16 in. (185.5 cm)
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
2005.58.1a-b

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.

Culture: 
Japanese
Period: 
Kamakura or Nanbokucho period (1185–1392)
Classification: 
Paintings
Geography: 
Japan
Status: 
Not on view
Provenance: 

Possibly sold through Yamanaka and Company

Bibliography: 

Kokka Magazine no. 1263 (2001).

“Bukkyo Bijutsu dai 14 satsu,” Bukkyo Bijutsu 14 (1929).

Genzo Nakano, Nihon bukkyo kaiga kenkyu, Shohan (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1982).

Carolyn Wheelwright, “Late Medieval Japanese Nirvana Painting,” Archives of Asian Art 38 (1985): 67–94.

Genzo Nakano, “Nehanzu,” Nihon no Bijutsu no. 268 (1988).

Takeo Izumi, Butsuga no zokei (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1995).

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 142–43 (detail), 145, pl. 131.

Sadako Ohki, “Japanese Art at Yale,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007): 42.

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.

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 such records is ongoing.