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Genji

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Tosa School, Japanese
Scroll Painting of Genji, Koto Music and Moonlight, n.d.
Paint on Silk


Technique: Painting
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Purchase, Scripps Collectors' Circle
Accession Number: 2019.21.5


Commentary
This ethereal scroll represents a vignette from the most famous Japanese epic, "The Tale of Genji," written almost one thousand years ago. The Williamson Gallery has a robust collection of Genji prints, and this silk scroll enriches this area of the collection while also adding a work from the famed Tosa school, one of the three most important styles of painting in Japanese history.

This piece was painted during the Edo period, sometime between 1603 to 1868. It was painted by the Tosa School which focused on subjects and techniques that were deeply Japanese as opposed to Chinese. We can see this in the thin outlines and flat colors. The mountains, trees, and the man-made gate all frame the lady, emphasizing how secluded she is. In contrast, the man is clearly an outsider, indicated by the blank space around him and how far to the edge he is. The red maple leaves tell us that it is fall, and the presence of the moon shows that it is night. There are blank areas striping around the scenery, giving us the indication of mist and infusing the painting with a very otherworldly feeling. Especially intriguing is how the lady is painted in white, which illuminates her and makes her seem ethereal. Perhaps she was depicted this way to show how entranced he is by her music and how heavenly she seems even though he can’t see her. In this painting, she is brighter than the moon.

Crystal Yang, SC '21

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