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Complete Album of Illustrations for The Tale of Genji (Genji kaiga cho kan)

Complete Album of Illustrations for The Tale of Genji (Genji kaiga cho kan)


Album; ink, light color, and gold on paper

Each leaf: 26.3 x 22 cm (10 3/8 x 8 11/16 in.); Painting only: 17 x 20.6 cm (6 11/16 x 8 1/8 in.)

Gift of Vera Sterne in memory of her husband, Maurice Sterne 1961.202



This album contains illustrations for 17 out of the 54 chapters of the classic literary work The Tale of Genji, authored in the 11th century by Murasaki Shikibu, an aristocrat of the Heian period (794-1185) court. The cover of the album indicates that the set was once complete, likely with one illustration representing a highlight from each chapter of the narrative. The remaining illustrations are identified by chapter title in cartouches to the upper right of the paintings. The scenes are painted in the "white drawing" (hakubyo) mode, in which a fine ink line is used to depict figures and spaces with great subtlety, punctuated only occasionally by traces of red pigment for a character's lips, a detail of a garment, or, as in one leaf of this album, details of the exterior of a dragon boat. A light gold wash is used to define areas of cloud and ground. For the decoration of the sliding doors of episodes in which the action takes place inside, the artist has chosen Chinese ink-painted landscape themes.

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