The Suma Chapter of The Tale of Genji

Artist: Iwasa Matabei (1578-1650)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early Edo period
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 40 x 54.3 cm (15 3/4 x 21 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaf (mounted on panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan
Provenance research underway.

Written in the early eleventh century by Murasaki Shikibu, a woman of the imperial court, The Tale of Genji was often illustrated in paintings, and later in books and woodblock prints. Suma was a scenic place on the straits separating Japan's main island, Honshu, from the southern island of Kyushu. It was often mentioned in classical poetry, but it became especially famous as the site of Prince Genji's exile after a particularly scandalous affair. Far enough from the imperial court to seem like a different world, Suma is most often represented in painting as a long shoreline where Genji contemplates his fate. Here a spring storm has arisen suddenly following a brief visit to Genji by his friend from court, To no Chujo. The profuse cherry blossoms express the emotional turmoil of Genji's exile through their association with intense but transient beauty.

Published References
  • Elisabeth West FitzHugh. A Pigment Census of Ukiyo-e Paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 11 Washington and Ann Arbor, 1979. pp. 27-38.
  • , vol. 11 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 27-38.
  • James L. Huffman. Modern Japan: A History in Documents. Pages from History New York. p. 34.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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