Mahaprajapati Nursing the Infant Buddha

Full Title: 
姨母育佛圖卷; Mahaprajapati Nursing the Infant Buddha
Ink and color on silk
31.9 cm (height) x 508 cm (length)
According to Buddhist legends, Mahapajapati Gotami was the maternal aunt of the Buddha and became his foster mother after the early death of Mahamaya. As a devout follower of the Buddha's teaching since his enlightenment, she made herself the first Buddhist nun and set up the first monastic community for women. Her son, Nanda,later also became one of the greatest disciples of the Buddha. Holding the infant Buddha in her arms, Mahapajapati in this painting is nursing the little prince with a peach, while her own child, probably Nanda, is left aside to the care of one her attendants. What the painter wanted to convey here is not only the protagonist's motherly tenderness but also her selfless love towards the Buddha.
Two tiny Chinese characters written in very dark ink on the lower party of the tree trunk toward the end of the handscroll read "zhen peng," but the authenticity of the artist's signature is uncertain. At the lower left corner, a square seal with with four characters reads "Zhang Zhongju yin," a seal of the Yuan dynasty scholar Zhang Zhu (1287-1368).
Repository Accession Number: 
Special Chinese and Japanese Fund
Description Source: 
Wu Tung. Tales from the Land of Dragons 1,000 Years of Chinese Painting. Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1997.
Scrolls Project ID: 
728 346