Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin engi emaki)

Title: Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin engi emaki)
Period: Kamakura period (1185–1333)
Date: late 13th century
Culture: Japan
Medium: Set of five handscrolls; ink, color, and cut gold on paper
Dimensions: 11 5/16 in. × 25 ft. 3/8 in. (28.8 × 763 cm)
Repository: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, United States of America

Image Description: The image comes for a section in a paper hand scroll nearly a foot in height and nearly 25 feet in length. The image itself contains a large, red, monstrous humanoid with horns that is surrounded by clouds, lightning, drums, and a floating length of cloth. The figure is a depiction of an unnamed thunder god that is creating disasters in reaction to the death of a slandered poet-scholar named Sugawara no Michizane.  The figure floats above and looks down on 8 men that it appears to be terrorizing in a courtyard who are terrified, running to the left, or dead. They wear regal clothes and a majority are located or running off of a raised platform, signifying some kind of nobility or authority. All important details are more crowded in the right, while the left is more open background of another part of the building without any eye drawing details. Given how handscroll paintings were used to display long stories; the reason a majority of the details are on the right side of the painting is because it is part of an entire story in a scroll that is meant to be read from right to left. It is also because of this that a majority of motion in the painting goes to the left. This includes the thunder god that faces left as he rains down lightning, and the men who are running to the left. These motions draw the reader’s eyes to the follow the story to the left.

Photo References: Photo taken from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Treasures of the Metropolitan

Author: Jason Ledoux

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