Priest Ikko in His Final Hours

The sequence of scenes in the painting are composed in three ascending registers and are read from bottom to top. The first shows Ikko in his final hours, surrounded by vowed disciples and pious laity. The second scene depicts the procession carrying the seated corpse of Ikko. And the final, uppermost scene describes the cremation ceremony. The image is bordered on left and right by inscriptions on white ground.

Historical period(s)
14th century
Medium
Ink, color, and gold on silk
Dimensions
H x W (image): 131.3 x 52.5 cm (51 11/16 x 20 11/16 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment and Harold P. Stern Memorial Fund
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F2005.3a-g
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
cremation, death, Japan, priest, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance research underway.
Description

The sequence of scenes in the painting are composed in three ascending registers and are read from bottom to top. The first shows Ikko in his final hours, surrounded by vowed disciples and pious laity. The second scene depicts the procession carrying the seated corpse of Ikko. And the final, uppermost scene describes the cremation ceremony. The image is bordered on left and right by inscriptions on white ground.

Inscription(s)

1. (James T. Ulak, January 2005, From curatorial justification for acquisition report)

The inscription on the right names the site and place of death: 18th day of the llth month (lunar) Koan 10(corresponding to 1289) at Rengeji, Higashiyama, Sakata, Omi Province. Rengeji, a temple founded by Ikko, is located in the present-day township of Maibara on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. On the left is a somewhat more complex combination of inscriptions. The first, written in kambun, or modified Chinese style, is a summation of texts central to the Muryoju Sutra (Sutra of Immeasurable Bliss)-- a key sutra in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition-- and is advanced as a slogan which decries the illusory nature of existence and exhorts only focused dedication (ikko) to the Amida Buddha, Lord of the Western Paradise. This dedication is manifest by the perpetual prayer “Namu Amida Butsu” (Hail the Amida Buddha). The study of this summary text or slogan was purportedly key to Ikko’s conversion to Pure Land Buddhism during his tutelage under the monk Ryochu, a disciple of Honen (1133-1212), founder of the revolutionary sect. The last section of text in the left-hand vertical scheme is a poem written in Japanese hiragana with a few Chinese characters. It might be translated:

Confidently and alone, the moon sets beyond the western mountain.
But what of me? Can I be so bold?

Published References
  • Mori Noburo, Ikko shojin no rinjue to shozo [A Study of Two Paintings: Priest Ikko in his final hours and a Portrait of Ikko with calligraphy]. no. 869 Tokyo. pp. 5-20.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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