The Tale of Genji

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Artist: Tosa Mitsunori (1583-1638)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early 17th century
Ink and gold on paper
H x W (overall): 24.7 x 20.3 cm (9 3/4 x 8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting


Edo period (1615 - 1868), gafu, Japan, The Tale of Genji

To 1932
Yamanaka and Company, New York 1932 [1]

From 1932
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Yamanaka and Company, New York in 1932 [2]


[1] Object file, undated folder sheet. Also see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, Collections Management Office.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Yamanaka and Co. 1917-1965


The Tale of Genji, a fifty-four chapter fictional work written in the early eleventh century by court lady Murasaki Shikibu, was a rich source for illustration. The Tale of Genji and other literary classics created in the imperial court of the Heian period (794-1185) figured prominently in the revival of courtly taste in early seventeenth-century Kyoto.  Painters of the Tosa school, of which Mitsunori was a leading member specialized in subjects from classical Japanese literature and played a key role in that revival. Here Misunori's paintings in the fine linear style known as hakubyo are paired with poems written by various court calligraphers. This group of thirty pairs of paintings and calligraphy illustrating certain of the fifty-four chapters of The Tale of Genji are said to have been formerly mounted on a folding screen.

Published References
  • Nihon no Koten: Japanese Classics. Tokyo. fig. 126.
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho [Japanese Art: Selections from Western Collections]. 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. vol. 2: pl. 26.
  • Robert Treat Paine, Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of Japan. Pelican History of Art Baltimore. pl. 97a.
  • Miyeko Murase. Iconography of the Tale of Genji: Genji monogatari ekotoba. New York. see remarks.
  • Great Drawings of All Time. 4 vols., New York. pl. 917.
  • Murasaki Shikibu, Midori Sano, Estelle Leggeri-Bauer. Le dit du Genji [The Tale of Genji]. 3 vols., Paris. .
  • Doris Croissant. Sotatsu und der Sotatsu-Stil: Untersuchungen zu Repertoire, Ikonographie und Asthetik der Malerei des Tawaraya Sotatsu (um 1600-1640). Munchener ostasiatische Studien: Sonderreihe, Bd. 3 Wiesbaden. pl. 78.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 35, 36, vol. 2: pp. 162-163.
  • Tomoko Emura. Tosa Mitsuyoshi. no. 543 Japan. pp. 1-30, sec. 22.
  • Yoshiaki Shimizu. Genji: The World of a Prince. Exh. cat. Bloomington, July 14 - August 29, 1982. p. 43.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 117.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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