Past Exhibitions

Folding Screens of the Twelve Devas
May 12, 2015 - June 7, 2015

These folding screens of the twelve Devas were used in the esoteric ritual of Kanjō (in Sanskrit, Abhisheka). Modeled on ancient Indian coronation ceremonies, Kanjō involves pouring water over the head and was incorporated into esoteric Buddhism as a rite of passage. The twelve Devas were originally based on Indian gods, and were thought to protect sacred training spaces in all directions of the compass. However, the application of their enshrinement to the ritual of Kanjō is a practice thought to have originated in Japan, and folding screens of this type emerged from the 12th century onward. The twelve Devas had always been shown seated in the past, and depicting them as standing figures is a modification made to fit the vertical format of each section of screen. In this sense this the screens are an example original Japanese Buddhist painting, but they also incorporate the latest stylistic developments from China and were quite novel at the time.

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