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Genji monogatari 源氏物語 (The Tale of Genji)

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Genji monogatari 源氏物語 (The Tale of Genji)
  • Description

    Painting, handscroll, one of a pair depicting scenes from the 'Tale of Genji'. This scroll depicting scenes from chapters 1-27. Pair with 1949,1008,0.14.2, depicting scenes from chapters 28-54. Ink, colours and gold on silk. Signed and sealed.

    The illustrations depict:
    1. Boy and courtier listening to a Chinese man
    2. Courtiers in discussion, storm outside
    3. Courtier watching as two ladies play go
    4. Priest praying to Buddhist image, courtier attending to court lady
    5. Cherry-blossom viewing excursion with priest
    6. Court lady playing koto beside a courtier, plum trees
    7. Maple-viewing celebration
    8. Courtier watching court lady, cherry blossoms
    9. Girl standing on go board, with courtier and attendants
    10. Courtier advancing toward court lady, rustic shrine and maples
    11. Courtier and court lady watching cuckoo fly across the moon
    12. Three courtiers in a rustic hut, smoke behind hills
    13. Courtier riding along beach, full moon
    14. Procession at shrine, court lady in distant boat
    15. Servant looking for fireflies (?), wisteria on pine
    16. Procession of ox-drawn carriages
    17. Court ladies viewing a painting
    18. Court lady playing koto on veranda
    19. Courtier watching sunrise (?), cherry trees
    20. Courtier writing a letter, morning glories, brushwood fence
    21. Court lady carrying maple leaves on tray
    22. A meal at a mountain retreat
    23. Court ladies gathering pine saplings
    24. Dragon-boat race
    25. Court lady inside hiding from courtier outside, another courtier between them
    26. Courtier playing koto beside court lady
    27. Courtier and court lady, night fisherman nearby


  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 17thC(late)-18thC(early)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 37.3 centimetres
    • Width: 2319.4 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Kano Ryusetsu hitsu
      • Inscription Translation

        From the brush of Kano Ryusetsu
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Kano Ryusetsu
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Content

        秀信 / 之印
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Hidenobu / no in
      • Inscription Translation

        Seal of Hidenobu
  • Curator's comments

    Genji iconography was popular with the new samurai aristocracy of Edo as well as ancient court families of Kyoto. Kano Hidenobu was a major painter of the Odawara-cho branch of the Kano school. Chapter 3, 'Shell of the Locust' (Utsusemi) It is a summer's evening. Genji spies on Utsusemi and Nokiba no Ogi as they play 'go' by the light of a standing lantern, a page-boy in attendance. Chapter 34, 'New Herbs - 1' (Wakanojo) Kashiwagi and his three younger brothers play football beneath blossoming cherry-trees. He catches a glimpse of the Third Princess standing just behind the blind when her pet cat escapes out onto the balcony. Their ensuing affair sets in motion a tragic chain of events.
    (Label copy, TTC 1996)Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 2

    The production of 'Genji-e', paintings illustrating the celebrated 'Tale of Genji', is believed to date back to shortly after the time, in the early years of the eleventh century, when Murasaki Shikibu first wrote the story. The oldest extant work is 'The Tale of Genji Picture Scroll' from the twelfth century, now divided between the collections of the Tokugawa Art Museum and the Goto Art Museum; numerous pictorial versions of the story have continued to be produced ever since, not only in the picture-scroll format but also on fan faces, 'shikishi' (poem cards), and folding screens. Nor were the artists who produced them confined to the Tosa school that carried on the 'yamato-e' tradition or to the Sumiyoshi school that branched off from the Tosa school, for the same subject was taken up by both the Sotatsu and Kano schools, each bringing its own techniques and styles to bear in recreating the Heian masterpiece. In such ways 'The Tale of Genji' was made available to an increasingly wide audience.

    Kano Hidenobu (Ryusetsu; 1646-1712), a pupil of Kano Shoei, was an artist of the Tsukiji Odawara Kano family; he succeeded his father Daigaku Fujinobu, who died in 1669, as an official painter to the shogunate, and in 1709 went with other Edo Kano painters to Kyoto, where he helped paint murals decorating the Imperial Palace.

    This scroll depicts one scene from each of 'The Tale of Genji' 's fifty-four chapters, the first of the two scrolls ending with the twenty-seventh chapter, "Kagaribi," while the second scroll includes the remainder. The two scrolls follow the chapters in the order in which they were written; no sections of text are included. Another 'Genji-e', a pair of six-fold screens by Hidenobu's father Fujinobu, survives in a private collection; this work similarly selects one scene from each of the fifty-four chapters and arranges them in correct sequence, setting the scenes off from one another with gold clouds. Other versions illustrating the fifty-four chapters of 'The Tale of Genji' on folding screens include those by Kano Tan'yu and Kano Sanraku; 'The Tale of Genji', in fact, seems to have been a stock item in the repertory of Kano-school painters during the Edo period. The present work and the folding-screen version by Hidenobu's father, Fujinobu, differ considerably, of course, in the amount, of space available for each painting, but the choice of scene is the same for a relatively large number of chapters. The treatment of individual scenes is also quite similar; in both cases, the scenes are organized into horizontal rectangles employing similar motifs and a lot of unpainted space, the shared sensibility thus evident pointing up the relationship between the two works.


  • Bibliography

    • Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 2 14-15, Ref. 11-12 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    2010 Feb-Jun, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'

    2007 Oct 10-, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present' [Chapters 34, 23, 17, 24, 18, 19]

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated titles

    • Associated Title: Genji monogatari 源氏物語
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Purchased by James White at the Bowes Sale, Branch & Leete, 20th May 1901 (lot 1965).

  • Department


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Jap.Ptg.Add.306 (Japanese Painting Additional Number)
COMPASS Title: Kano Ryusetsu Hidenobu, Genji monogatari ('The Tale of Genji');, a pair of handscroll paintings


COMPASS Title: Kano Ryusetsu Hidenobu, Genji monogatari ('The Tale of Genji');, a pair of handscroll paintings

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Object reference number: JCF7106

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