Surrounded by a ring of fire, brandishing a weapon in
each of his six hands, and wearing a lion’s head crown
capped with a thunderbolt atop his flaming hair: this is
the deity Aizen Myōō, Wisdom King of Passion, whose
burning wrath is as arresting as it is unmistakable.
An important recent acquisition, this painting dates
to around the same period as the sculpture of Prince
Shōtoku (c. 1292), which contained two smaller
sculptures of Aizen displayed in the adjacent gallery.
The work is a rare portrait of the sculptural icon of the
deity once installed at the temple of Ninnaji, in Kyoto.
Painting sculptures was a practice usually reserved for
icons said to have performed miracles; notably, the monk
Eison’s rituals to Aizen were credited with whipping up
the divine winds that prevented the Mongol invasions of
Japan in 1274 and 1281.