Portrait of Shun'oku Myōha, Unidentified Artist Japanese, Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk, Japan

春屋妙葩像 自賛
Portrait of Shun'oku Myōha

Artist:
Unidentified Artist Japanese
Period:
Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
Date:
ca. 1383
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Dimensions:
Image: 45 5/8 × 20 1/2 in. (115.9 × 52.1 cm)
Overall: 79 × 29 3/4 in. (200.7 × 75.6 cm)
Overall with knobs: 79 × 31 5/8 in. (200.7 × 80.3 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto, 2007
Accession Number:
2007.329
Not on view
The Zen priest Shun’oku Myōha (1311–1388) is shown seated cross-legged in a red lacquer chair with his shoes placed on a footrest. Shun’oku’s illustrious monastic career included top administrative positions, abbotships at major monasteries, and close relationships with the first and third Ashikaga shoguns. Zen portraits of this type, called chinsō, were disseminated among followers and served a ritual function in funerals and memorial services. The bamboo staff signifies authority, and Shun’oku’s decorative robes and kesa (monk’s vestment) are important signs of rank. Shun’oku inscribed his portrait with a poem:

There are no eyes atop the head.
There are eyebrows below the chin.
This is everything; this is nothing.
I also could not become a phoenix.
Inscribed by Myōha of Tenryū[ji] for [?] at Muryōjuin
—trans. Anne Nishimura Morse and Samuel Morse
Inscription: There are no eyes on the top of the head
There are eyebrows under the chin,
This is everything; this is nothing.
I also could not become a phoenix.
Presented to the Muryoju-in for ------(illegible character)
Inscribed by Myoha of Tenryuji
Ryūtokuan Temple , Fushimi; Henri Vever , France (until d. 1943; by descent to family).; Henri Vever (sale, Sotheby's London, June 1994, Lot 17, to London Gallery); [ London Gallery Ltd. , Tokyo, until 1995; sold to Sylvan Barnet and William Burto]; Sylvan Barnet and William Burto , Cambridge, MA (until 2007; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Enlightening Pursuits," February 28, 2001–August 5, 2001.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Paintings from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection," October 1, 2002–March 2, 2003.

New York. Japan Society Gallery. "Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan," March 28, 2007–June 14, 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Animals, Birds, Insects, and Marine Life in Japanese Art," June 26, 2008–November 30, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscapes in Japanese Art," June 24, 2010–November 7, 2010.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection," June 13, 2017–February 4, 2018.