Princess Rinkyūji, high-status women and painting, and the influence of Buddhism on Japanese art

Princess Rinkyūji (1634-1727) was the daughter of Emperor Gomizunoo (1596-1680) and a painter who focused largely on religious themes through portrayals of Buddhist icons. According to Suzuki, one of her most celebrated works, the Figure of Kannon (seventeenth century), is characteristic of the divine subject matters admired by an Edo audience. Buddhist themes were particularly popular with high-class women due to the large proportion of princesses throughout the late 16th and 17th centuries entering imperial nunneries, at which they were inspired to pursue artistic paths. Suzuki notes that these women “were not bound by the usual social and gender restrictions of the time”[1] as their lives were encapsulated instead by the expectations of the nunnery. This provided these women artists with the freedom to explore artistic pursuits without the restrictions of marriage and responsibilities of a household. Their religious endeavours allowed these women to discover spiritual themes popular throughout the Edo period, as well as advancing their own artistic style.

[1] Suzuki 2016, p. 157.