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Scene from the Tale of Genji (Hana No En, “Festival of the Cherry Blossoms”)

After Iwasa Matabei

Asian Art

The eleventh-century novel The Tale of Genji was a favorite subject for many Japanese artists, offering a chance to depict emotional stories in an idealized, antique setting. This painting illustrates an episode that takes place during cherry blossom season, as indicated by white flowers on some of the surrounding trees. The protagonist, Prince Genji, accosts a woman late at night, assuming that she will gladly have sex with him. He later discovers that she is the daughter of a rival. He is shown placing his hand on her shoulder—a gesture that would have been read as blatantly sexual and aggressive during this period, when men and women were rarely depicted touching.
MEDIUM Hanging scroll, ink color and gold leaf on paper
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 17th century
    PERIOD Edo Period
    DIMENSIONS 49 3/16 x 18 1/8 in. (125 x 46 cm) Image: 18 3/8 x 13 5/16 in. (46.6 x 33.8 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Purchased with funds given by Mrs. Louis Nathanson and the Frank L. Babbott Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The scene shows Genji and the princess, Oborozukiyo, meeting on the terrace of a pavilion overlooking a garden. Gold clouds waft through the scene. The moon is seen above the clouds to the left of the lovers. The pavilion stands above a stream colored blue. The cherry blossoms are in bloom on trees to the left of the pavilion and somewhat obscured by the clouds. A green hill can be seen rising in the top left. The lady is dressed in layers of kimono. The outer kimono is colored red and decorated with a gold floral design, her black hair streams down her back like a cascading waterfall. Genji is dressed in a brocaded garment which was originally silver but has since oxidized and is black. The longish face of Genji, rather prominent nose, smallish eyes and mouth form are in the style of Iwasa Matabei.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION After Iwasa Matabei (17th century). Scene from the Tale of Genji (Hana No En, “Festival of the Cherry Blossoms”), 17th century. Hanging scroll, ink color and gold leaf on paper, 49 3/16 x 18 1/8 in. (125 x 46 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Mrs. Louis Nathanson and the Frank L. Babbott Fund, 66.76 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 66.76_IMLS_SL2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 66.76_IMLS_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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