The Tale of Genji, Chapter 51; Ukifune (one of a pair with F1965.6)

Artist: Kano Naonobu (1607-1650)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early 17th century
Ink and color on paper
H x W: 153.7 x 352.6 cm (60 1/2 x 138 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screen (six-panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, The Tale of Genji
Provenance research underway.

This is one of a pair of folding screens illustrating two of the fifty-four chapters in The Tale of Genji, a narrative composed in the early eleventh century by a lady of the court known as Murasaki Shikibu. This fictional biography of Prince Genji, whose life was filled with romance and tragedy, was a frequent subject of Japanese paintings.

This screen represents chapter fifty-one, Ukifune. The lady Ukifune and her lover Niou, drift together in a boat on a wintry day, sheltered by a folding screen and temporarily isolated in their tragic romance.

The painter Kano Naonobu chose monochromatic ink and thin color washes for a theme that was more commonly illustrated in lavish color and gold. The dreamlike effect of the mists and washes is poetically evocative of the mood of each episode. Naonobu was an official painter who served the Tokugawa shogun.

Published References
  • Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts: Japanese Art at the Time of the Samurai. vol. 88, no. 1/4 Detroit. .
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho [Japanese Art: Selections from Western Collections]. 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. vol. 4: p. 143, pl. 90.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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