Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku

Hatano ChiteiHeian period, dated 1069 (Enkyuu 1)

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo, Japan

This set of paintings is the oldest and largest extant illustrated biography of Prince Regent Shôtoku (574-622). It depicts places and events related to the traditional account of his life, stemming from the veneration of the prince that began in the Nara period (710-794). These paintings were originally on fixed doors that adorned the Picture Hall in the East Precinct of Hôryû-ji Temple. They were remounted as freestanding screens in the Edo period (1615-1868), and in recent times were again remounted on ten panels. Records tell us that Hata no Chitei, an artist from Settsu Province (present-day Osaka Prefecture), painted them during the second to fifth month of Enkyû 1 (1069). Although little of the original figured silk ground and polychromy remains, the works still tell us a great deal about large-format narrative painting of the Heian period (794-1185).Small cartouches pasted on the picture surface have inscriptions that indicate the content of the nearly sixty scenes selected from Prince Shôtoku's life. To the viewer's right is the Asuka region, in the center is the Ikaruga Palace, and on the left side are Shitennô-ji Temple, Naniwa, and China. The depictions of events of Shôtoku's life and the landscape in the background are beautifully integrated in this magnificent composition.


  • Title: Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku
  • Creator: Hatano Chitei
  • Date Created: Heian period, dated 1069 (Enkyuu 1)
  • Object Title: 聖徳太子絵伝
  • Object Notes(Japanese): 聖徳太子絵伝は、奈良時代に始まった太子への信仰をもとに、太子の事績を描いたもの。この絵は、もと法隆寺東院の絵殿を飾っていた障子絵で、江戸時代、屏風に改装され、さらに近年10面のパネル装にされた。記録によって、延久1年(1069)2月から5月にかけて、摂津国(現在の大阪府)の絵師、秦致貞が描いたことがわかる。当初の綾地や彩色が残る部分は少ないが、上代の大画面説話画の形式を十分に伝えている。 画面は、太子の生涯の60近い事蹟を選び、それぞれに、銘文を記した色紙形が貼ってある。右方に飛鳥地方、中央に大きく斑鳩宮(いかるがのみや)での場面、左端に四天王寺、難波、中国を描いた壮大な構図に、太子の事蹟と背景の山水とが融けあっている。 現存する聖徳太子絵伝では、本絵伝が最古で最大の遺品である。
  • Object Date: 平安時代・延久元年(1069)/江戸時代・天明8年(1788)
  • Artist Name: 秦致貞筆
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: http://www.emuseum.jp/detail/100205

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