Heaven and Hell in Japanese Art

August 14, 2010–May 1, 2011
Free with Museum Admission

Japanese images of heaven and hell range from depictions of serene paradises to grotesque realms of punishment. Heaven, situated in a land of bliss where devotees are reborn to reside with Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light, is typically represented by luxurious palaces, jeweled trees, and tranquil ponds. Hell, with scenes of fire, torture, and suffering, is the destination awaiting those who fail to follow the sacred precepts of Buddhism. The concepts of the afterlife are derived from ancient Buddhist scriptures, and they have impacted morality, spirituality, and behavior up until the present day.

“Heaven and Hell in Japanese Art” features several Edo-period (1615–1868) Buddhist paintings that have rarely been exhibited. It also highlights a recent loan of a monumental 18th-century sculpture of Amida and his atttendants descending on swirling clouds to the faithful.


With generous support from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund.