Tale of Genji: Murasaki and Genji Enjoying the Snow
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Utagawa Kunisada (aka Toyokuni III), Japanese, (1786–1864)
Tale of Genji: Murasaki and Genji Enjoying the Snow, c. 1854
Ink on Paper
14 1/4 in. x 29 5/8 in. (36.2 cm x 75.25 cm)
In this triptych (three-part print), the artists Kunisada (left and right figure prints) and Hiroshige (the garden in the center) collaborated to create an Edo-period take on Chapter 20 (“Morning Glory,” or “Asagao”) from The Tale of Genji. In this chapter, Genji visits Lady Murasaki, his greatest love, at his Nijo mansion one early spring evening and is impressed by how beautiful the garden looked in the snow. Genji declares, “People make a great deal of the flowers of spring and the leaves of autumn, but for me a night like this, with a clear moon shining on snow, is the best and there is not a trace of color in it.” Here, Genji and Murasaki, dressed in fabulous kimono, watch from the palace verandah as a group of young women build a giant rabbit out of snow, the one at the front shaping the bunny’s head with a trowel and positioning a red lacquer sake cup to make its eye.
- Meher McArthur, Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Curator of Academic Programs and Collections, 2021
Seals: left panel - four in lower left; middle panel - one in lower left; right panel - one in upper right and four in lower right.
Colored ink on paper; woodblock triptych print.
Color woodblock print with an image of three women forming a large rabbit out of the snow; a woman and genji stand watching them from behind a tree; from the literary "Tale of Genji." In Chapter 20 "The Morning Glory" (Asagao), Genji visits Murasaki at his Nijo mansion one early spring evening and is impressed by how beautiful the garden looked. He notes:
"People make a great deal of the flowers of spring and the leaves of autumn, but for me a night like this, with a clear moon shining on snow, is the best and there is not a trace of color in it. I cannot describe the effect it has on me, weird and unearthly somehow. I do not understand people who find a winter evening forbidding."
transl. by E. Seidensticker
This joint work, with Kunisada providing the figures and Hiroshige designing the landscape, was one of several triptychs they did together on the Genji theme. In the mid-19th c. Japan experienced a "Genji boom" with several illustrated translations and parodies being published and various performances offered in kabuki and puppet theaters.
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