This monumental painting of Kannon, a bodhisattva (enlightened being) associated with infinite compassion, portrays the Buddhist deity in the guise of a maternal figure who nurtures an infant enveloped by a halo. Both figures hover high above a stark landscape that represents the world where the newborn child will live.
Hōgai’s work was produced for exhibition display rather than for veneration. It was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1883 and acquired by Parisian art dealer Siegfried Bing (1838–1905). Ernest Fenollosa acquired it from Bing and in 1902 sold it to Charles Lang Freer. Fenollosa grandly titled the painting The Creation of Man, perhaps attempting to give the work a universal meaning.
Kano Hōgai (1828–1888)
Ink, color, silver, and gold on silk
Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1902.225