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Curator James Ulak on Masters of Mercy

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Published on Jul 6, 2012

Masters of Mercy: Buddha's Amazing Disciples

March 10--July 8, 2012
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

From 1854 until his death in 1863, Japanese artist Kano Kazunobu (born 1816) labored to produce one hundred paintings depicting the miraculous interventions and superhuman activities of the five hundred disciples of the Buddha. The project was commissioned by Zōjōji, an elite Pure Land Buddhist temple in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Now widely regarded as one of the most impressive feats of Buddhist iconography created during the Edo period (1615--1868), this remarkable ensemble was largely overlooked through much of the twentieth century.

A revival of interest began in the 1980s and culminated in a major exhibition in Tokyo in spring 2011, held to commemorate the eight-hundredth anniversary of the death of Hōnen (1133--1212), founder of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. Zōjōji collaborated with the Edo-Tokyo Museum and noted scholars to produce the exhibition, which featured all one hundred paintings along with related works and documentary material. The whole ensemble had not been viewed publicly since World War II.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is privileged to continue the Hōnen commemoration and, for the first time, make available to American audiences the scale, diversity, and context of Kazunobu's creation.

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