The periodic rotation of the most fragile works of the MAO collections, replaced for conservative reasons, today affects the Japanese gallery and, in particular, prints, books and kakemono, vertical scrolls that frame elegant paintings and calligraphy on paper or silk. tradition, kakemono hang on the walls of Japanese houses, and in particular in the tokonoma, a raised recess found in traditional homes where valuables are displayed. The kakemono was introduced to Japan from China, probably in the Heian period (794-1185), and if at first it was used essentially as a support for Buddhist religious subjects, it later became one of the favorite means of artistic expression by Japanese painters.
Buddhist-themed painting, the red thread of this rotation, is represented at MAO by the oldest painting, by an anonymous author, present in our collections: a work that is also a classic example of devotional painting to hang in the halls of temples.
This is the "eleven-headed" Bodhisattva Kannon, an ink and color-on-silk kakemono dating back to the Muromachi period (14th-15th century) depicting Juichimen Kannon, the best-known esoteric form of the Bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshvara in East Asia. It is characterized by a precise line with a naturalistic intent, by the abundance of pigments, by a certain rigidity of the composition and by the precious support: a refined silk drape. The other kakemono on display are of very different nature, technique and sometimes materials. The style is mainly rapid and calligraphic, made with a few bold strokes of ink on a more humble support such as paper, although there are also examples on silk executed in color in a more descriptive style.
These paintings do not depict the major deities of Buddhism but people, often rendered with caricature outcomes: famous monks, founders of schools, deified characters, mostly of Chinese tradition, such as Hotei (Budai in Chinese), a character who lived in China between the 9th and 10th centuries, popularly regarded as an incarnation of Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. He is portrayed as a plump and peaceful monk, shaved and smiling, carrying a sack full of treasures for the faithful. This figure is a symbol of generosity, contentment and abundance, and is often represented surrounded by children, to whom he bestows sweets from his bag. The second part of the Murasaki Shikibu Genji Karuta series of woodcuts (Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Papers) is located in the corridor that houses the prints and books.