May 1, 2017
May 1, 2017
May 1, 2017

Ōtsu-e Nirvana of the Buddha (Ōtsu-e Butsu Nehanzu)

Ōtsu-e Nirvana of the Buddha (Ōtsu-e Butsu Nehanzu)


Hakuen 伯圓

(Japanese, active 1850–1870)

Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper

Overall: 201.9 x 78.7 cm (79 1/2 x 31 in.)

Collection of Dr. Daniel Verne and Mitzie Verne 2016.306



The painting parodies the traditional representation of this subject. The death of Buddha is actually the moment he achieves nirvana and escapes the endless cycle of death and rebirth. Hakuen transformed this serious moment (see The Death of the Buddha [1916.1141]) into a lively parody with otsu-e subjects. Mourners surround the Buddha. An oni, who pretends to be a priest, holds his gong in the air as he beats his drums and chants prayers. The wisteria maiden appears at the left, bringing water to the mourners. Behind her is an oni in the guise of a thunder god beating his drums. The animals along the foreground represent other otsu-e characters and models. The painting would have amused 19th-century viewers familiar with the usual Buddhist imagery.

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