Memyo, whose name means "horse's neigh," rides a white horse and holds a scale in one hand and a red disc in the other. The deity is thought to have originated from a deity associated with sericulture in Chinese folk religion and was later woven into the Buddhist pantheon in Japan. The deity protects the production of silk, aids the weaving of fabric, and provides clothing for the humble.
The earliest image of Memyo is an iconographic drawing in the Jukkansho (the Ten scrolls), a collection of images of esoteric Buddhist deities dating from the fourteenth century in the Entsuji on Mount Koya. Memyo appears in the fifth scroll and is shown with four arms, holding a scale, a skein of silk and a book. There are four female attendants in Chinese clothing and one male attendant holding the horse's reins. A Chinese supplicant approaches the group. Another example of this iconographic drawing of Memyo is in the Mary Griggs Burke Collection, New York.
Paintings of Memyo are extremely rare. This example was once owned by Masuda Takashi (1848-1938), head of the Mitsui manufacturing and financial combine who assembled a renowned collection that was encyclopedic in character. The collection was sold after his death. This painting passed into the hands of Fukui Rikichiro (1886-1972), professor of art history at Tokyo University.
Previously sold in these Rooms, 20 April, 1989, lot 611