Tale of Genji Emaki


Tale of Genji Emaki


Secular hand-scrolls (emaki) play an important role in the tradition of Japanese story telling. Since the twelfth century, imperial patrons commissioned narrative hand-scrolls for their own leisure; among the most popular narratives was the Tale of Genji.

Some of the examples in this collection are the earliest known paintings of the Tale of Genji. As some scholar suggest, the Fujiwara clan was among the first to commission the story in scrolls of text and painted illustrations. Through the imperial court in Kyoto the Tale of Geji scrolls reached their height of popularity in the late Heian period employing the common lyrical style of yamato-e. This technique is predominately seen in the work attributed to Takayoshi.

The Tale of Genji was a novel written by Lady Murasaki centered around the high court life of the aristocracy at Kyoto, especially the Emperor's Son, Hikaru Genji. The narrative goes beyond that of previous writing, developing the psychological complexity of the characters and detailing the exquisite finery experienced by the Heian court.

Collection Items

Illustrated Tale of Genji - The 44th quire Takekawa, 12th Century
The aerial view depicted in the 44th chapter is a great compositional device rarely seen in China but greatly utilized by Japanese artists.

Illustrated Tale of Genji - The 49th quire Yadorigi, 12th Century
Yamato-e is traditionally conceived as a Tang-Dynasty stylistic device, but through the popularization of hand-scroll narratives within the imperial court, Japanese painters were able to refine this decorative technique into something stylistically…

Picture Scroll of the Tale of Genji - Scene from the Chapter of Hashihime and Yadorigi II, 12th Century
A characteristic of the Late Heian style is the close attention to detail and can be seen in the delicately gold crafted Japanese screens in the middle ground of the image, and also in the sumptuous fabrics of the aristocrats.

With the…
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