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Artist: Utagawa Yoshitora (歌川芳虎)

Print: Death of Buddha - the 'Nehanzō

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Dates: available,circa 1850
Dimensions: 9.75 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print
Inscription:

Unsigned
Publisher: Maruya Seijirō (Marks 299 - seal 27-010)

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Physical description:

"Paintings of the death of Buddha, called in Japan 'Nehanzō (Nehan means Nirvāṇa and means image) are not so numerous in Japan's Buddhist art, in comparison to paintings of Amida, Jizō etc."

Quoted from: Indian Influence on the Art of Japan by Sampa Biswas, p. 129.

Biswas goes on to note (p. 130) that scenes of the death of Buddha do not traditionally include mourning animals. The author states that she believes that this form of iconography was a Chinese invention which was then adopted by the Japanese.

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Among the menagerie of creatures is an elephant, a pair of mandarin ducks, a peacock, a dragonfly - a symbol of Japan, animals of the zodiac including a goat, a tiger, a boar, a hare, a horse, etc., a lion, a snail, a snake, a cricket, a praying mantis, a worm, a toad or frog, a wasp, a turtle, a crab, a slug, a lion, et al. Hovering, low to the ground, right above these animals is an apsara flying figure beating a drum hanging on a cord around her neck. Other figures in the lower half of this composition include two, muscular temple guardians, an oni, Ema-O - the overseer of the Buddhist hell, a horned dragon, and many others.

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A wonderful depiction of people and a magical collection of animals mourning Buddha. This is a rare kakemono-e attributed to Yoshitora.