Eleven-Headed Kannon (Jūichimen Kannon)

Eleven-Headed Kannon (Jūichimen Kannon)



Hanging scroll; color and cut gold (kirikane) on silk

Overall: 106.7 x 39.7 cm (42 x 15 5/8 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1970.79



The Eleven-Headed Kannon, a deity of mercy and compassion in the Buddhist pantheon, was introduced into Japan in the 600s. By the 700s it had gained in popularity among an increasing number of believers, a condition it enjoyed until the end of the Kamakura period. The modest size and high quality of the materials apparent in this work indicate its use as a private devotional image.

An earlier restoration of this painting included the use of an entire silk backing layer rather than silk patches with a paper backing. The tension that resulted between these two layers of silk, one old and the other recent, caused serious cracking to occur in the painting's surface. Moreover, the silk backing had been dyed a dark tone which did not enhance the appearance of the painting, although it did help hide damaged areas in the surface silk. Now two layers of backing paper support the painting, with its carefully fitted silk patches. These are toned slightly differently from the original surface values so that viewers can distinguish between the original and the modern restored areas. The original metal fittings have also been cleaned and reused. Other replacement fittings were deemed inappropriate for this early religious image and so new, specially designed ones are now in place.

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