Painting of Jesus by Artist Okayama Found at Japanese School

Courtesy of Obayashi Sacred Heart School
The newly discovered painting by Seikyo Okayama is seen in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, in July.

NAGASAKI — A painting of Jesus by Seikyo Okayama (1895-1977), has been discovered at a school where the artist used to work as an art teacher in Hyogo Prefecture. Okayama made traditional Japanese paintings and his artwork is held in the Vatican Museums’ collection in addition to being exhibited in the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki City.

Courtesy of Seikyo Okayama’s family
Seikyo Okayama

The painting was found at Obayashi Sacred Heart School in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, and the school is considering restoring it.

The work measures 175 centimeters in length by 117 centimeters in width, and features Jesus clad in a red cloak, with his right hand having what appears to be a wound from his crucifixion. The painting is believed to be depicting Jesus after his resurrection.

Shin Sora, a teacher at the school, discovered the painting at a warehouse in May of last year. The 58-year-old was searching for cultural materials stored in the warehouse in preparation for the school’s upcoming 100th anniversary.

Okayama worked at the school from 1931 for about 10 years and the newly found painting bears his signature, Seikyo Okayama. His family visited the school last year in July and confirmed that it is Okayama’s work. The date of the painting remains unknown.

Growing up in Hiroshima, Okayama also taught at schools in Oita and Nara prefectures after graduating from an art school in Kyoto Prefecture. Although the artist is said to have painted more than 100 sacred paintings and other works throughout his lifetime, only about 20 pieces’ existence have been confirmed.

Okayama painted an almost life-size work of the 26 Christians who were martyred in Nagasaki at the end of the 16th century and presented the artwork to the Pope before World War II. The piece has been kept in the Vatican Museums, however, its condition is deteriorating as its paint peels off.

The painting that was newly discovered has damage from mold as well as peeled paint, so the school is seeking support for its restoration.

“Although the artwork is a Japanese painting, its coloring is like Western paintings, which gives it a unique impression. When [the painting is] restored, we want many people to behold the deep facial expression of Jesus holding all kinds of emotions,” Sora said.