Scenes from Ise monogatari ('Tales of Ise'), a 6-fold screen painting

Edo period, 17th century AD

This was probably originally one of a pair of screens. It shows scenes from episodes 23, 45 and 69 of Ise monogatari ('Tales of Ise'), the famous tenth-century literary classic of Japan.

Bottom right is a scene from chapter 23, 'Tsutsui-zutsu', (The Well-curb), showing two childhood friends who later become man and wife. Their story, told in the 'Kawachi-goe' (Crossing over to Kawachi) section of the same chapter, continues across the bottom left of the screen. The man starts visiting another woman, but he becomes suspicious of his own wife. So one day he pretends to set off on a journey, but instead hides and spies on her. When he overhears her composing a poem praying for his safety, he is so moved that he gives up his affair with the other woman. Here we see him crouching among bush clover, his face concealed behind a fan. His wife can be seen sitting on the edge of the verandah.

Top right shows an episode from chapter 45, 'Iku hotaru' (Fireflies in the Night): a man has just been told that a woman who loved him has died without confessing her love. That evening as the fireflies come out, he sits and mourns.

Finally, in chapter 69, 'Kari no tsukai' (The Envoy of the Hunt), a falconer from the Imperial court visits a priestess of the Ise shrine with whom he has a relationship. The elaborate kitchen scene, showing duck being prepared for the pot, is in fact derived from a handscroll of another tale, Matsuzaki Tenjin Engi Emaki, which is not related to Ise monogatari.

An inscription by Sumiyoshi Hiromori (1705-77) ascribes the painting wrongly to a certain Tosa Mitsuaki (identity unknown). In fact, it is thought to have been painted by a Rimpa artist of the Sōtatsu school working in the seventeenth century.

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Scenes from Ise monogatari ('Tales of Ise'), a 6-fold screen painting

Detail: left panels

  • Detail: centre panels

    Detail: centre panels

  • Detail: right panels

    Detail: right panels


More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)

M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987)


Height: 1510.000 mm
Width: 3586.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD299 (1948.11-27.014)


Gift of the Hon. Mrs Robert Wood


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