Completed in 1887 in ink with color on silk, Jurojin is the work of the Japanese artist Shibata Zeshin. Japanese art experts often criticize his Westernized style but also dismiss him as a strict traditionalist of little originality. Is it not ironic then, that the first example of his work on his Wikipedia entry it is this Taoist God of Longevity?
Jurōjin (寿老人) is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune or Shichifukujin. He has little hair, a very high forehead and a long white beard. He is also quite small in stature, tradition identifies his height as only 3 shaku or 35 inches. The scroll he is carrying lists all living things and their lifespan. Some version of his myth say the scroll lists all of our good and bad deeds. If you look closely at the bottom of the staff, you’ll see a tortoise. Jurojin is often accompanied by deer and other long-lived animals such as the tortoise and the crane.
I love the way Zeshin has used such a small portion of the silk for Jurojin. It helps to exaggerate both the figure’s large forehead and short stature.