- Provenance research underway.
This painting depicts the events recounted in the fourth chapter of The Tales of Ise, the famed tenth century collection of lyric episodes. An unnamed gentleman, whom tradition has held to be the poet Ariwara no Narihira, falls deeply in love with a woman who has temporary quarters with the former empress living in the eastern Fifth ward of Kyoto. After several encounters, she leaves without explanation or notificaion. The gentleman is despondant. Over the years he attempts to console himself by visiting the site of their assignation each year in the first month at the blooming of the plum trees. His poem, inscribed at the top of the painting has been translated: Is not the moon the same? / The spring / The spring of old?/ Only this body of mine/Is the same body... / Helen Craig McCullough. Tales of Ise. Stanford, 1968.
Inscription and seal lower right.
Is not the moon the same?
The spring of old?
Only this body of mine
Is the same body. . . .
The poem written in the elegant style of Japanese imperial court calligraphers expresses the sentiments of the courtier who gazes longingly from the veranda. This painting illustrates section four of Tales of Ise (Ise monogatari), in which an unnamed courtier traditionally identified with the poet and romantic hero Ariwara no Narihira (825-880) returns to the site of a love affair that had ended abruptly the previous year when the lady had moved away without a word. Transience and melancholy are eloquently expressed through the setting: a chilly night just at the transition from winter to spring, when the plum trees are in bloom. Sumiyoshi Gukei belonged to a family of painters who had served the imperial court. His father, Sumiyoshi Hiromichi (Jokei), whose handscroll painting, The Tale of the Uji Bridge Lady, had moved from the imperial capital of Kyoto to Edo to serve the Tokugawa shoguns.
Translation from Helen Craig McCullough, Tales of Ise (Stanford University Press, 1968)
- Published References
- Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 306-307.
- Collection Area(s)
- Japanese Art
- Web Resources
- Google Cultural Institute
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