Vimalakirti Scroll Used for a Yuima-e Service at T"nomine Temple has been retitled to reflect new information that came to light in the course of recent restoration and cleaning carried out in Japan.
When the Kimbell purchased the painting from a Japanese collection in 1982, it was titled A Shinto Painting of Yuima. The scroll is divided into three sections—the top register contains small figures of a thunder god, a Buddhist priest, a deer, and a pagoda, and the bottom register depicts two Chinese lion-dogs facing each other. The central section features the large, bearded figure of the Indian sage Vimalakirti, called Yuima in Japanese, a Buddhist layman who lived in India in the sixth century B.C. Having reached the height of spiritual understanding but choosing to remain a layman, he was renowned for his superior insight and wisdom. Previously the male figure directly below Yuima was thought to be his Shinto counterpart, while the identities of the two smaller figures were not known. Recent research has revealed that the figure below Yuima, dressed in court robes, is Fujiwara no Kamatari (A.D. 614–669), a famous Japanese statesman and founder of the aristocratic Fujiwara clan. Flanking Kamatari are his two sons, one a Buddhist priest, seated on the right dressed in monk’s robes, and the other a government official, dressed in court robes like his father. Kamatari served as minister to three empresses and emperors during the Asuka period (538–710). This work, painted seven centuries after Kamatari’s death, was used in a Yuima-e (Assembly for Vimalakirti), a memorial service held annually for Kamatari at the T"nomine temple in Nara, which was built in 678 by Kamatari’s eldest son, Jo-e. The painting now bears a title that describes its original function.