Important Cultural PropertyJuntei Kannon ('Pure' Avalokitesvara)

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  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Color on silk
  • 103.4x47.4
  • Heian period/12th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-11796

 Juntei Kannon, also called Juntei Butsumo, is a goddess unique to Esoteric Buddhism. It is known from past documents that she was an object for worship and prayer for obtaining a child and having a safe delivery, particularly among people of high standing in the Heian period.
 Existing paintings of Juntei Kannon are small in number and most of them depict the Kannon as a single figure with three eyes and 18 arms as described in sutras. One with two eyes and eight arms surrounded by Shitenno (Four Guardian Kings) like this one is rather rare.
The body of this Juntei Kannon is painted in white and outlined in red. The crown is drawn with sumi on gold leaf and the hair is painted in grayish light green. Neutral colors blended with white pigment, such as light brown, light blue and light green, are heavily used on the robe and lotus pedestal. The use of black sumi contour lines is avoided as much as possible and white lines are used instead to outline the flower petals on the pedestal. Patterns on the robe are created with cut gold leaf, the calf is represented by a white teriguma technique (a shading technique to produce a highlighted effect) and danguma (graded shading technique) is used on the pleats of the robe. These techniques together produce a soft, elegant atmosphere characteristic of the Buddhist paintings of the Insei period (a period ruled by retired emperors). On the other hand, calm luster was created by using silver leaf. While they have turned black, the nimbus surrounding the head and halo bear patterns created with cut silver leaf with some accents of cut gold leaf. Silver leaf is also applied to the yoraku (hanging decoration) hanging from the canopy. Moreover, the surrounding Four Guardian Kings already show the following description techniques that would become mainstream in the Kamakura period: the application of metal leaf to the back of metal ornaments, the use of subdued overall coloring to highlight the sumi outline, a rock base at the foot of the Kannon and the swinging and lively description of the robe and kanzo (ornamental ribbons hanging from the both sides of a crown). The sophisticated screen structure comprising main and sub motifs and their clever use for the description of different parts suggest the transition from the Heian period to the Kamakura period.