|■Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation Science
|■Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage
View of the seminar by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held the 7th Seminar with two external speakers on December 27th, 2018. The first presentation entitled “Origin of the Scrolls of Diseases – ‘Illustration of Lotus Sutra’ owned by Seikado Bunko” was given by Dr. Satomi YAMAMOTO of Kyoritsu Women’s University, and the second presentation “Takashina style in ‘Mandala of Kasuga Shrine’ owned by Seikado Bunko Art Museum” was given by Prof. Masahiko AIZAWA of Seijo University. They focused on the two collections of Seikado that deserve the attention but are not widely presented yet.
According to Dr. YAMAMOTO, it can be deduced from the ending prayer that the ” Lotus Sutra” in Seikado Bunko, illustrating sutra on the head of the scroll, was created in 1140 (Shaoxing (Shoko) 10) by 40 people who made a Buddhist connection with each other and were led by Daoyin (Doin) of the Tendai sect of Buddhism who was active in the South Song Dynasty in the mid-12th century. She explained that its Biyu Chapter (Hiyu-Bon) illustrates a sick person who receives a bowl of medicine and the Lotus Sutra states that people who vilify the sutra would suffer from sickness such as dwarfness, hunchback and bad breath, which are illustrated in the “Illustration of Lotus Sutra.” Additionally, she made interesting remarks that the National Treasure “Yamai-no-Soshi,” drawn from the late Heian period to the Kamakura period, may have been inspired by the text of the Lotus Sutra and this illustration of the Lotus Sutra in Seikado Bunko, and that the creation of “Yamai-no-Soshi” must be considered while taking into account the situation of Japan and China in the 12th century, the worship of the Lotus Sutra, and the relationship between monks and general worshippers then.
Prof. AIZAWA presented that “Mandala of Kasuga Shrine” which is owned by Seikado Bunko Art Museum and said to be from the 14th century, is a unique work that puts names of each building in white rectangles and illustrates gods of Ten Shrines, their Buddhist metamorphoses, and divine deer, in addition to the scenery of Kasuga Shrine, rare except for the Mandala of Kasuga Shrine owned by the MOA Museum of Art. He explained that what is interesting is that, compared to the one of the MOA Museum of Art which has been corrected many times, this artwork largely keeps its original form and uses high-quality paints to draw gods and Buddha in delicate touches. He presented in a detailed slide that it must have been drawn by a follower of Kanetaka TAKASHINA who drew “The Miraculous Origins of the Kasuga Deity” owned by the Sannomaru Shozokan (Museum of the Imperial Collections). He also made an in-depth remark that such “Mandala of Kasuga Shrine” may have had the function of inviting the god and making Kasuga on the spot by spreading the scroll, in the same way as “Mandala of Hie-Sanno Shrine.”
More than 20 external attendees attended the seminar, and it was very meaningful.
A scene from the seminar
The sixth monthly seminar in fiscal 2018, organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, was held on November 27th. Dr. Emi MIYAKO, a part-time lecturer at the Tokyo University of the Arts, was the guest speaker, giving a presentation entitled, “History of Technical Development of Coloring on Silk: A Study on the Painting of Mahamayuri Vidyaraja (Kujaku Myoo) Owned by the Ninna-ji Temple.” Designated a national treasure in Japan, the painting of Mahamayuri Vidyaraja is a work that some historians date as early as the Northern Song Dynasty. Its exceptionally high standard of artistry is expressed in its dynamic rendering of elements, including the feathers of the peacock that appear as if they are moving. Distinctive realism found in this work is in stark contrast to conventional styles of Japanese Buddhist paintings.
Dr. MIYAKO is an art historian with numerous academic achievements, as well as an artist who has been producing many outstanding artworks. In her presentation, Dr. MIYAKO compared a same sized copy of a painting made by GENSYO of Jisyo-in of Ninna-ji Temple in 1779 (Edo period), which uses the sukiutsushi technique (tracing of the original by laying silk cloth over it) with the painting of Mahamayuri Vidyaraja, and revealed that the Japanese silk support was sewn together whereas the Chinese version was seamless. In addition, she presented many samples of silk cloths to show how different results can be when sizing is applied on the silk supports, even if similar painting techniques are used. An expression of artistry, or simply put “beauty” dwells in the “forms” in the work, and such “forms” are supported by realistic and physical techniques. However, this is one area, which classical methodology of art history was unable to tap. Through analyses of support, line drawings, coloring, and coloring materials, Dr. MIYAKO provided insightful knowledge, suggesting that further achievements can be expected from her future studies.
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a two-day open lecture on October 26th and 27th, 2018 in the seminar room of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Every autumn, the Institute invites people from the general public to attend presentations delivered by its researchers, along with outside lecturers on the outcomes of their research that they conduct on a daily basis. This program is not only held as part of the Lecture Series of the Ueno no Yama Cultural Zone Festival organized by Taito City but is also associated with Classics Day on November 1st, 2018.
This year, the lectures covered four topics: “Creating a Database on Cultural Properties and Its Significance” (Tomohiro OYAMADA, Researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems); “SESSON Shukei and the Genju School of the Rinzai Sect—Based on Daiyu-zan Hounji Temple” (Dr. Yuji MIZUNO, Assistant Professor at the University of Tsukuba); “Locality Expressed in Women in the Nude—In the Cases of Fujita, San Yu, and Chen Cheng-po” (Emiko YAMANASHI, Deputy Director General of the Institute); and “Linking Tradition to Modern Age: Forms of Flowers and Birds Painted by Qi Bai-shi” (Motoyuki KURE, Senior Researcher of Kyoto National Museum). The first two lectures were delivered on the 26th of October and the latter two on the 27th. The audience on both days totaled to 134 people. According to the results of the questionnaire survey, nearly 90% of the audience responded “satisfied” or “almost satisfied.” Thus, the open lecture received favorable reactions.
A lecture being given
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a two-day open lecture on November 2nd and 3rd in the seminar room of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP). Every autumn, TNRICP invites people from the general public to attend presentations given by its researchers and invited outside lecturers on the results of research that they conduct on a daily basis. This year, it was the 51st open lecture. This program is not only held as part of the Lecture Series of the Ueno no Yama Cultural Zone Festival organized by Taito Ward but is also associated with Classics Day on November 1st, 2017.
This year’s lectures covered four topics: “Japanese paintings that were brought overseas ― Through introduction of the folding screen, “Merry making on kamo river beach at shijo” in a collection at the Grassi Museum for Ethnology in Leipzig, Germany” (Tomoko EMURA, Head of Archives Section, TNRICP); “Human bodies depicted as this impure world― Illness and dead bodies depicted in Japanese medieval paintings” (Satomi YAMAMOTO, Professor of Kyoritsu Women’s University); “Loquats painting copied from nature― Tanyu KANO and reproduction in Edo Period” (Mayumi ONO, Senior Researcher, TNRICP); and “Great poets making tofu baked and coated with miso ― Paintings of Great Poets by Jakuchu ITO” (Miho MABUCHI, Associate Professor of Kobe City University of Foreign Studies). The first two lectures were given on the 2nd and the latter two lectures on the 3rd. The audience on both days totaled 225 people and, according to the results of the questionnaire survey, nearly 90% of the audience responded “satisfied” or “almost satisfied.” Thus, the open lecture received favorable reactions.
A highly detailed color digital image filming of the Painting of “Sahasrabhuja” or “Senju-kannon”
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has continuously conducted joint research with Tokyo National Museum (TNM) on Buddhist paintings in the Heian era housed by the TNM to date. We have taken pictures of a piece of work a year by employing highly detailed digital image technology that the TNRICP has and accumulated data that allow you to identify techniques in details. Starting in this fiscal year, the parties signed a memorandum titled “Joint Research on Buddhist Art through Optical Surveys” to launch a joint research project anew. In the new project, we will employ multiple optical methods ranging from near infrared image to luminescence image, to X-ray fluorescence spectrometry of pigments and X-ray image. These data enable you to identify unexpected techniques that have yet to be noticed visually from various perspectives and researchers of both institutions will jointly look into how they are associated with sophisticated painterly expressions represented by Buddhist paintings in the Heian era. On April 27th, 2017, we performed a color split filming of the whole picture of the national treasures: the Painting of “Mahamayuri” or “Kujaku-myo-o” and the Painting of “Sahasrabhuja” or “Senju-kannon.” The image data obtained thereby will be shared with researchers of the TNM and both parties will study its significance in an art historic sense and make preparations for making it pubic down the road.
Photographing the painting of Cundi
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems regularly works with the Tokyo National Museum to study Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period in its collection. Each year, high-resolution digital imaging technology belonging to the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is employed to image these works from the 12th century or earlier to gather data that enables researchers to study in greater detail the techniques employed to produce the works. Such data has revealed the use of extraordinary techniques that would not have been apparent with the naked eye. Researchers from the two institutions explore how these techniques were used to create such sophisticated pictorial depictions of Buddhist deities so many centuries in the past. As part of this year’s study, a painting of Cundi (Juntei-Kannon) (Important Cultural Property) and a painting of Samantabhadra (Fugen Bosatsu) (National Treasure) were imaged on February 23rd, 2017 in high-resolution color in sections, along with all of this year’s National Treasure selections. Going forward, other optical study methods will be adopted in this joint work and the results shared with museum researchers so that the place of such paintings in art history can be assessed with an eye toward presenting the paintings to the public in the future.
A lecture being given
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems organized a two-day open lecture in the seminar room of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) on November 4th and 5th, 2016. This year’s seminar marked the 50th milestone. Every autumn, TNRICP invites people from the general public to attend presentations given by its researchers and invited outside lecturers on the results of research that they conduct on a daily basis. This program is not only held as part of the Lecture Series of the Ueno no Yama Cultural Zone Festival organized by Taito Ward but is also associated with Classics Day on November 1st,2016.
The following four lectures were given this year: “Documentation Activities and Archives – A group of materials on the Year Book of Japanese Art and its transmission (Hideki KIKKAWA, Researcher, Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) and “Wolves Coming Back into Existence – Yamatsumi Shrine in Iitate Village – On the Restoration of the Ceiling Paintings) (Kyoko MASUBUCHI, Curator, Fukushima Prefectural Museum) on the 4th and “Techniques to Hand Down Forms – Welcome to the backstage of an exhibition) (Chie SANO, Director, Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) and “Forms to Memorize and Those to Find – Meanings and Value of “Cultural Properties”) (Ken OKADA, Director, Center for Conservation Science) on the 5th. The event drew a total of 159 visitors from the general public over two days, and gained favorable reviews.
Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a seminar on December 22nd, 2015, where Kyoko ISHII of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques made a presentation on the topic: “Possibility and acceptability of past refurbishing of Red and White Cotton Roses. It concerned Red and White Cotton Roses (designated as a National Treasure and owned by Tokyo National Museum), paintings signed by the Chinese court painter Li Di in the Chinese Southern Song dynasty in 1197. At the presentation, she reported on accurate depiction of details as well as her perception on inpainting added by posterity based on the results of various kinds of optical examinations using infrared rays, x-rays, etc. Based on the detailed map of damages that remain on the paintings, she also reported the possible refurbishing made by posterity. Large longitudinal bending lines exist on both paintings. Today, the paintings of white cotton roses and red cotton roses are said to be a pair of hanging scrolls. However, it can be possibly presumed from these longitudinal bending lines and inpainting that they were originally made as a picture scroll, which were then trimmed and made into hanging scrolls. Ishii further reported that the both paintings had already been recognized each as an independent painting in the early Edo period and provided with unique values added in Japan. The two large longitudinal bending lines on both paintings occur in an equal interval on each of the paintings that are different in nature from longitudinal bending lines observed in ordinary picture scrolls. Ishii’s presentation was followed by a lively discussion as to possible causes of these lines, as to a question arising on the signs on the pictures if they had been a picture scroll, etc., thus disclosing and posing a series of interesting problems.
Audience at the seminar room
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems organized public lectures at the seminar room of the Institute on Friday, October 30 and Saturday, October 31, 2015. This lecture has been annually held for 49 years in order to widely release our accumulated research outcomes to the public. For 2015, two researchers of the Institute and two more lecturers from outside gave a one-hour lecture, respectively.
Day 1 was dedicated to “Amida (Amitabha) Triad of Ninna-ji Temple and the Belief of Emperor Uda” by Ms. Mai Sarai (Senior Researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems), and “Painters in the 10th Century : Various Phases of “Japanization” from the Perspectives of East Asian Art Historyby Mr. Ryusuke Masuki (Associate Professor at Kobe University). Ms. Sarai explained iconographical features of the Amida Triad built by Emperor Uda together with their involvement with historical backgrounds of the religion centering on Emperor Uda, while Mr. Masuki studied changes in landscape paintings around the 10th century in China read from historical materials, which affected Japanese paintings.
Day 2 was for “Japanese and Chinese Found in Yosa Buson’s Paintings” by Mr. Takuyo Yasunaga (Researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) and “Looking into the Landscape Paintings of Ike no Taiga : By Means of Two Paintings of ‘Riku-en’” by Ms. Rie Yoshida (Curator of the Shizuoka City Art Museum). Mr. Yasunaga explained how Yosa Buson, a painter representing the Edo period, was aware of “Japanese” and “Chinese” styles in his expressions, which were mixed and shown in his actual paintings. On the other hand, Ms. Yoshida focused on the paintings of “Riku-en” drawn by Ike no Taika, a famous painter in the Edo period like Buson, which are based on the Chinese theory of painting but which are very unique. She also referred to how the paintings of Taiga as a Japanese “Bun-jin (literati) painter” had been established along with the styles of paintings using Japanese brushes shown in his works and the relationships with people involved in his works.
With an audience of 138 people on Day 1 and 109 on Day 2, the lectures were esteemed highly: More than 80% of questionnaire respondents answered “Satisfied Very Much” and “Satisfied in General.”
The scene during the survey
On August 24 and 26, 2015, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems conducted high-resolution color and near-infrared photography surveys on seven paintings of Eminent Priests that are part of National Treasure Prince Shōtoku and Eminent Tendai Priests (a total of 10 paintings possessed by Ichijō-ji temple in Hyogo Prefecture) using the digital imaging technology of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. The seven paintings investigated in the latest surveys are currently deposited with the Nara National Museum. Seiji Shirono, Mai Sarai and Tatsuro Kobayashi took part in the survey conducted at the museum. Together with the images we had already obtained so far, the findings of the latest surveys include more detailed information of the paintings than ever, and we are preparing to publish the outcomes of the research project.
Imaging of A Painting of Mahamayuri
Together with the Tokyo National Museum, the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems has continued to conduct joint studies of Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period in the National Museum’s collection. Each year, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo uses its high-resolution digital imaging technology to image a single work in order to assemble data so that researchers can learn about the finer aspects of the techniques used to produce the work. These data have allowed identification of extraordinary techniques that would not have been apparent with the naked eye. Researchers from the Tokyo National Museum and the Institute have explored how these techniques relate to the sophisticated pictorial depictions in Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period. As part of this year’s study, A Painting of Mahamayuri (jpn.Kujaku-myō-ō) (National Treasure) was imaged on January 15, 2015. The image data obtained will be shared with researchers from the Tokyo National Museum, and in the future researchers from the two facilities will explore the painting’s place in art history.
Imaging a Painting of Samantabhadra
The Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems has conducted joint studies of Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period with the Tokyo National Museum. These studies seek to precisely image paintings in the museum’s collection and explore aspects of their production in further detail than that offered by observation with the naked eye. A Painting of Akasagarbha (a National Treasure) and a Painting of the Thousandarmed Kannon (also a National Treasure) were previously studied. This year, a Painting of Samantabhadra (a National Treasure as well) was imaged on March 26, 2014. This work is one of the most acclaimed Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period. The images obtained will be examined by the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems and researchers from the Tokyo National Museum, and the painting’s significance to art history will be studied in the future.
Study and photography of Taima-dera Temple’s “Backboard” Mandala
The Taima Mandala is a pictorial depiction of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism showing primarily the Pure Land Paradise of Amida based on the Commentary on the Meditation Sutra by the monk Shandao from Tang Dynasty China. The work has been passed down by the Taima-dera Temple in Nara, leading to its name. The work is massive, extending more than 4 meters in width and height. Scenes in the mandala are depicted by weaving, i.e. figured brocade, rather than pictures painted on silk canvas, as was normally the case. A recent view has posited that the work may have been produced in Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century. Nevertheless, the work has unquestionably deteriorated over a span of 1200–1300 years. The state and extent of the original figured brocade that remained had not been fully ascertained. The Institute’s Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems conducted a joint research project on the mandala with the Nara National Museum last year when the museum hosted a special exhibition entitled Taima-dera Temple.
The Taima Mandala was kept affixed to the back of a board in a miniature shrine atop a dais in the mandala hall of Taima-dera Temple. However, the mandala had severely deteriorated by the Edo Period, so paper was placed on top, water was applied, and the fabric of the mandala was detached to that it could be refashioned into a hanging scroll. This hanging scroll was studied last December. Some of the fabric remaining on paper that was used to detach the mandala during the Edo Period has been kept by Saikou Temple in Kyoto as the Mandala “Imprint on Paper.” The remaining woven fabric that has not peeled away from its original backing, known as the “Backboard” Mandala, has survived. Together with the Nara National Museum, SHIRONO Seiji and SARAI Mai performed high-resolution imaging of the Mandala “Imprint on Paper” at the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems on May 28 of last year. On May 29, SHIRONO Seiji and KOBAYASHI Tatsuro participated in a study involving macro-photography of the “Backboard” Mandala in Taima-dera Temple’s mandala hall. Portions of the original figured brocade on the Mandala “Imprint on Paper” were not readily discernible, but the fabric itself was found to remain. Because of the physical constraints on site, the scope of the study of the “Backboard” Mandala was somewhat limited, but the original figured brocade was found to have survived. The Taima Mandala was poorly understood, but the current study has helped to ascertain its true state.
The Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems conducted a regular conference on May 28 (Tues.). This conference was entitled Issues with the Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku in 6 Scrolls in the Collection of Shi-tenno-ji Temple. The conference featured presentations from TSUCHIYA Takahiro (Tokyo National Museum) and MURAMATSU Kanako (Ryukoku Museum), who comprised the team that surveyed A Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku.
The conference covered Shi-tenno-ji temple’s A Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku in 6 scrolls (an Important Cultural Property). The work was commissioned by (at the behest) of AJARI, a priest at the Ida Bessho (a remote religious facility away from the main temple) in year 3 of the Genko Era (1323) and painted by an individual named TOTOMI Hokkyo of an atelier (studio) in the Southern Capital (Nara), according to writing on the back of the work. These aspects mark the piece as important among the many works on Prince Shotoku produced after the early 14th century. The writing on the back of the piece had been considered as-is since it was first printed out some 30 years ago. However, YONEKURA Michio (emeritus researcher at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo), a member of the team that studied the actual work, indicated that the writing is not original. Mr. YONEKURA presented the view questioning what is written along with images of the writing (Mr. YONEKURA was absent that day, so Mr. TSUCHIYA made the presentation in his stead). Afterwards, Mr. TSUCHIYA showed detailed images of the painting and he offered his own doubts about the rather vague grounds for considered the work a Painting of the Southern Capital (school). Mr. TSUCHIYA announced that there was ample room for additional consideration of whether or not that style of work actually existed at the time. Ms. MURAMATSU indicated the iconic relationships in a number of other versions of the Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku, and she noted their significance in surviving versions of the Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku. Although the work is noteworthy for the exceptional way in which it was crafted, it has not been fully discussed. Perhaps this conference will spur further study of the work.
The optical study of the Nissokan doors (two panels)
The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, where the temple’s principal image is enshrined, has two doors at its entrance the rear corridor, featuring Nissokan illustrations intended to evoke Paradise. The door on the right-hand side depicts mountains with buildings in their midst, including a Buddhist temple, while the images on the left door include the expansive sea and the setting sun above the horizon. While naturally the passing years have caused many parts of the paintings to peel off and a number of repairs were made by later generations, in light of the tough environment in which they were placed the original pictures can be said to have survived the years well. These are very important paintings in that they are rare examples of full-fledged paintings remaining from the mid-Heian Period. In September 2012, as requested by Byodoin Temple the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo conducted an optical study focusing chiefly on the paint remaining under the sliding locks that had been installed atop the pictures in later years, since those locks had just been removed.
This more recent study focused chiefly on the outer frame of the doors, a part of the Nissokan doors not previously subjected to full-fledged optical study. Parts of the frames are decorated with patterns that from their materials are thought to be original. From January 8 through January 10, 2013, Seiji SHIRONO and Tatsuro KOBAYASHI of the Planning and Information Department took high-resolution color images, fluorescence images, and infrared images of the Nissokan images themselves along with other subjects including fragments of the Jobonjoshozu doors of the Phoenix Hall, preserved in the Hoshokan, and parts of the ceiling panels. Yasuhiro HAYAKAWA of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques used fluorescence X-ray analysis to study the materials used in the frame patterns. After study of the data obtained, plans call for reporting the data to the Byodoin and then announcing it publicly in the future.
Prior to this study, the Nissokan doors were moved to the Hoshokan, a museum facility equipped with an environment resembling that of the interior of the Byodoin, and they will be preserved and made available for public viewing in this facility. Plans call for installation of new doors with reproductions of the Nissokan paintings inside the Phoenix Hall, and this optical study, like its predecessor, is likely to contribute greatly to the process of preparing these reproductions.
Kasuga Gongen Genki E is a massive work from the dawn of the 14th century consisting of 20 scrolls in total featuring paintings by TAKASHINA Takakane, head of the court atelier, at the behest of SAIONJI Kinhira, Minister of the Left at the time. All of the scrolls have survived. The work is extremely valuable in terms of the history of Japanese paintings, and it features a style that is unrivaled in its elaborateness and resplendence. Currently curated by the Imperial Household Agency, the work is being completely disassembled and restored as a part of a 15-year plan that began in 2004. As part of joint research with the Imperial Household Agency, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo has optically studied and photographed the work prior to restoration. As of last year, 12 scrolls of the 20 total scrolls had been studied.
This year, high-resolution digital photography of scroll 4 and scroll 15 was done with visible light, fluorescence, and 2 types of infrared waves (reflected and transmitted). Photography took place from December 3 to 6, 2012 and involved SHIRONO Seiji, KOBAYASHI Koji, and KOBAYASHI Tatsuro from the Institute’s Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems. From December 10 to 20, HAYAKAWA Yasuhiro of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques used X-ray fluorescence of the 2 scrolls to collect data on paints.
Use of the reams of data that have been obtained thus far will be examined with the Imperial Household Agency once conservation and restoration are complete.
Study and photography of the Taima Mandala
The Taima Mandala is a pictorial depiction of the teachings of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism showing primarily the Pure Land Paradise of Amida based on the Commentary on the Meditation Sutra by the monk Shandao from Tang Dynasty China. The work has been passed down by the Taima-dera temple in Nara, leading to its name. Vast numbers of works depicted the same images even in later ages and can be found around the country, but the basis for these works is the Taima Mandala, which the Institute studied. The massive work has been designated a National Treasure and extends more than 4 meters in width and height. The work is thought to have been produced in the 8th century, though some believe it to have been produced in Tang China while others think it was produced in Nara. A major feature of this key mandala is that scenes are depicted by weaving, i.e. figured brocade, rather than pictures painted on silk canvas, as was normally the case. However, the work has unquestionably deteriorated over a span of more than 1000 years. Massive restoration in the Kamakura and Edo periods only just managed to keep the work intact. Scenes are apparent as a result of patching that was done during those periods, but the ground weave has been severely damaged. The extent of original figured brocade that remained and the features of that brocade were somewhat unclear.
The mandala had long been out of public view, but the mandala was slated for exhibition during a special exhibition, Taima-dera Temple, by the Nara National Museum starting on April 6 of this year. Prior to exhibition, the Institute’s Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems conducted an optical study of the mandala from December 17 to 21, 2012 at the Nara National Museum as part of a joint research project with the Nara National Museum. SHIRONO Seiji, KOBAYASHI Koji, SARAI Mai, and KOBAYASHI Tatsuro of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems participated in the study. A railed platform was crafted for extensive photography. The work was placed on the platform and then photographed with a high-definition digital camera. The total surface of the work was divided into close to 150 segments, allowing viewing of the extremely elaborate weaving of the mandala. High-definition digital images were taken with visible light, and sections were photographed in greater detail with fluorescence and infrared light. During the study, macro-photographs were taken on portions where the original figured brocade appeared to have survived. Very few portions were found to have the original weave of the figured brocade, providing a key springboard for future studies. This study also helped to facilitate exhibition of the work at the Nara National Museum.
High-resolution image photography of a Painting of the Thousand-armed Kannon (a National Treasure)
As part of the “Study on Digital Imaging of Cultural Properties” research project of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems, high-resolution images of a Painting of the Thousand-armed Kannon (a National Treasure) in the Tokyo National Museum were taken November 1. This photography was in accordance with a “joint study” between the Institute and the Tokyo National Museum and follows the study of a Painting of the Akasagarbha Bodhisattva (also a National Treasure) last year. The current images were taken by the Institute’s SHIRONO Seiji with the assistance of TAZAWA Hiroyoshi and OKIMATSU Kenjiro of the Tokyo National Museum. KOBAYASHI Tatsuro and EMURA Tomoko were also involved in the project. A Painting of the Thousand-armed Kannon (a National Treasure) is a typical Buddhist painting from the Heian Period. Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period display delicate beauty in subtle features that distinguish these works in the history of Japanese paintings. Thus, observing the subtle features displayed is crucial. The current images surpass what is visible with the naked eye. Beauty unique to Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period is apparent in the painting’s subtle features. In the future, the Institute will jointly examine the information obtained with specialists from the Tokyo National Museum.
Kasuga Gongen Kenki-e is a voluminous work that was commissioned by SAIONJI Kinhira, the Minister of the Left, in the early 14th century. The work consists of a total of 20 scrolls painted by TAKASHINA Takakane, head of the official court atelier. Masterfully painted, the work is a treasured part of the history of Japanese paintings. The work is currently curated by the Imperial Household Agency. The Imperial Household Agency has been dismantling and completely restoring the scrolls in line with a 15-year plan that started in 2004. As part of joint research by the Institute and the Imperial Household Agency, optical studies of the work were done prior to its restoration.
On September 25th, the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems held a seminar to report on the interim results of those studies. OTA Aya, a senior researcher from the Sannomaru Shozokan who is directing the restoration, described the restoration overall and findings yielded by the restoration. SHIRONO Seiji of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems delivered a report focusing on the characteristics of high-resolution images in visible light. The various optical studies done by SHIRONO include visible-spectrum images as well as near-infrared reflectance, near-infrared transmittance, and fluorescent images. As the current point in time, studies of 12 scrolls have resulted in image information consisting of close to 6,700 sections. KOBAYASHI Tatsuro of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems described some of that information in terms of its significance to art history. The optical studies also include a scientific study of pigments via X-ray fluorescence analysis done by HAYAKAWA Yasuhiro of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques. The information that study is yielding is clearly quite valuable. Suitable ways of publishing that information will be explored in consultation with representatives from the Imperial Household Agency.
Survey of the Nissokan [door paintings] (from the rear corridor)
The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple is a famed structure that was built around the first year of the Tengi Era (1053). Paintings on its doors and pillars are also a treasured part of the history of Japanese paintings. Behind the Seated Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Buddha) statue, the temple’s principal Buddhist image, are 2 doors to the entrance to the rear corridor from the west side of the main hall. The paintings on these doors depict Nissokan as described in the Kanmuryojukyo [“Sutra on the Contemplation of Buddha Amitayus”]. Although much of the paint has peeled off and the paintings were retouched a number of times in later centuries, the paintings are important because they have retained the major elements of their composition since they were originally created.
The foot of the left door has a flush bolt that locks when the bolt is dropped into a hole in the doorsill. The lock’s wooden support is shaped like an “エ,” obscuring part of the painting. In conjunction with work to restore the Phoenix Hall, this support was removed, revealing the part of the painting that had been obscured. At the behest of Byodoin Temple, an optical study primarily of this portion was conducted. The study took place over 3 days from Sept. 4–6 and was done by HAYAKAWA Yasuhiro of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques and SHIRONO Seiji and KOBAYASHI Tatsuro of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems.
Little pigment remains in what is thought to be the original portion of the painting behind the flush bolt. However, traces do remain. HAYAKAWA submitted these traces to X-ray fluorescence analysis while SHIRONO took high-resolution images, near-infrared reflectance images, and fluorescent images of these traces. Plans are to soon analyze and examine the data obtained and then publish those findings.