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

A survey of door paintings of Nissokan [meditation by contemplating the setting sun] in the Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple

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.

Study and photographing of the Painting of the Akasagarbha Bodhisattva (a National Treasure) in the Collection of the Tokyo National Museum

High-resolution image photography of the Painting of the Akasagarbha Bodhisattva

 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 color Painting of the Akasagarbha Bodhisattva on silk (a National Treasure) in the Tokyo National Museum were taken on October 5th. This photography was in accordance with a “joint study” between the Institute and the Tokyo National Museum. The images were taken by SHIRONO Seiji of the Institute’s Image Laboratory with the assistance of TAZAWA Hiroyoshi of the Tokyo National Museum; KOBAYASHI Tatsuro and EMURA Tomoko were also involved in the project. The Painting of the Akasagarbha Bodhisattva 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 project photographed the work as a whole in 28 sections at the highest resolution currently available, and more detailed portions were macro-photographed in 8 sections. The results surpass what is visible with the naked eye. In the future, the Institute will jointly examine the information obtained with specialists from the Tokyo National Museum.

1st Conference of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems held in 2011

 The 1st Conference of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems was held on May 11, 2011. Presenters and their topics were as follows:
・ Takahiro Tsuchiya (Research Division, Curatorial Research Department, Tokyo National Museum)
  A Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  This presentation was based on A Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku in 2 scrolls in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. This piece had not been fully studied despite its significance. Mr. Tsuchiya compared the piece to similar imagery in the 2 scrolls of Okura-ji temple and the 6 scrolls of Shi-tenno-ji temple. Examining specific details with regard to imagery, setting selection, and arrangement revealed similarities to and differences from the piece in the Metropolitan Museum and indicated elements common to scrolls of Tachibana-dera temple and Zuisen-ji temple. A Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku has led to a number of varied works, and the presentation touched on issues such as the piece’s relation to other works, the atelier (studio) at Shi-tenno-ji temple, and large-sized medieval depictions of ancient tales.
  The presentation’s large audience included Kanako Muramatsu (Ryukoku Museum) and visiting researcher Masahiko Aizawa (Seijo University). After the presentation, there was an active discussion of topics like the piece’s relationship to scrolls of the Seikado Bunko Art Museum, the era when the piece was produced, and establishment and continuation of imagery in depictions of ancient tales.

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