Court Ladies among cherry trees (left); Cherry blossoms, a high fence and retainers (right)

Artist: Style of Tawaraya Sōtatsu 俵屋宗達 (fl. ca. 1600-1643)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1590-1640
Ink, color, gold, and silver on paper
H x W (.101): 165.4 x 378 cm (65 1/8 x 148 13/16 in) H x W (.102): 165.3 x 378.3 cm (65 1/16 x 148 15/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screens (six-panel)

attendant, cherry blossom, cherry tree, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan

To 1903
Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940), Boston, to 1903 [1]

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunkio Matsuki in 1903 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] Undated folder sheet note. See Original Screen List, L. 71, pg. 18, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Bunkio Matsuki (C.L. Freer source) 1867-1940


The Tale of Genji is a lengthy fictional narrative written by Murasaki Shikibu in the eleventh century. Presumably drawing from her real experiences at court, Lady Murasaki crafted an intricate tale of the life and loves of the fictional Prince Genji, offering broader, strongly Buddhist-influenced reflections on karmic cycles, the futility of desire, and the melancholy passage of life.

Illustrated versions of the tale began to appear in the twelfth century and were generally codified by the seventeenth century. These screens refer to the "Asagao" (Morning glory) chapter, in which Prince Genji visits the quarters of Princess Asagao, whom he has unsuccessfully pursued in the past, and is again adroitly spurned by the princess. The attendants depicted waiting outside a fence and parked carriages are references to Genji's visit to the princess. Although subtle, these visual hints had long been standard in illustrated versions of The Tale of Genji and were enough to remind the literate Japanese viewer of this episode.

Only a small portion of the total composition in the two screens is actually devoted to a recognizable narrative, in contrast to the dominance of two large masses of form-a curving ground line in the left screen and an angular, diagonal fence in the right screen. These may be attempts by the painter to suggest the conflicting emotions of the described encounter-the prince's hopeful arrival and his subsequent rejection.

Published References
  • James T. Ulak, Howard Kaplan, Dr. Julian Raby. Cherry Blossoms. New York, NY, March 3, 2015. .
  • Ann Arbor Art Association. Exhibition of Oriental and American Art: Under the Joint Auspices of the Alumni Memorial Committee and the Ann Arbor Art Association, on the Occasion of the Opening of the Alumni Memorial Hall, University of Michigan. Exh. cat. Ann Arbor and Detroit, May 11 - May 30, 1910. opp. p. 12.
  • Hannah Sigur. The Influence of Japanese Art on Design., 1st ed. Salt Lake City. p. 78.
  • Wilfred B. Shaw. The Relation of Modern American Art to that of China and Japan, Demonstrated at the Recent Exhibition at Ann Arbor. vol. 18, no. 5 Syracuse, August 1910. pp. 522-530.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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