Scenes from The Tale of Genji

Historical period(s)
Momoyama period, late 16th century
Color and silver on paper
H x W: 98.4 x 190.5 cm (38 3/4 x 75 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screen (two-panel)

Japan, Momoyama period (1573 - 1615), poems, The Tale of Genji

To 1908
Yamanaka & Company, to 1908 [1]

From 1908 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in 1908 [2]

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


[1] See Original Screen List, pg. 38, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. The majority of Charles Lang Freer’s purchases from Yamanaka & Company were made at its New York branch. Yamanaka & Company maintained branch offices, at various times, in Boston, Chicago, London, Peking, Shanghai, Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto. During the summer, the company also maintained seasonal locations in Newport, Bar Harbor, and Atlantic City.

[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
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1917-1965


Formal competitions in composing poetry and painting, as illustrated in this scene from the eleventh-century narrative The Tale of Genji, provided amusement and allowed audiences to admire and critique the creations of fellow aristocrats. Contests had established rules, thematic restrictions, and judges. In the left panel of this folding screen, teams of the Left and Right, representing the court ladies Akikonomu and Kokiden, sit on opposite sides of the room and present the boxes of scrolls they have selected for the contest. The room is shown from above, as if the roof has been removed, a common artistic device in Japanese painting. After debates lasting well into the night, Prince Genji's own painting, based on his long exile at Suma and accompanied by poems that convey his troubled emotions, won decisively over a presentation of older paintings of classical subjects. The moonlit evening ends with courtiers performing a concert.

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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