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: Parody of a scene from The Tale of Genji

Parody of a scene from The Tale of Genji

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)
Artist: Kawamata Tsuneyuki 川又常行 (1676?-1741?)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early 18th century
Ink, color, and gold on paper
H x W (overall): 154 x 68.8 cm (60 5/8 x 27 1/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
The Tale of Genji, written in the early eleventh century by Murasaki Shikibu, a woman of the imperial court, became widely known during the Edo period (1615-1868) through illustrated printed books. By the eighteenth century, when this painting was created, the conventional elements identifying famous episodes were recognizable, even without text. Here a scene from the thirty-fourth chapter of Genji is transformed into an unexpected contemporary context through a convention known as mitate (often translated as "parody"), a literary and pictorial device that employs an unexpected parallel or comparison between apparently unrelated images.In The Tale of Genji, an illicit romance begins when Prince Genji's rival at court glimpses Genji's new wife as a cat pushes the bamboo curtain aside during a game of kemari, a form of kickball. Here, the Genji scene is suggested by the white kemari ball, the spring setting, and the woman concealed behind a bamboo blind, but instead of Heian-period (794-1185) courtiers, the women in the courtyard are contemporary courtesans of the urban "floating world," and the woman behind the blind, who is a high-ranking courtesan, reclines as she allows the red lining of her kimono to show alluringly outside the curtain.

To 1898
Edward S. Hull Jr., New York to 1898 [1]

From 1898 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Edward S. Hull Jr. in 1898 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Panel List, L. 6, pg. 2, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Edward S. Hull Jr. was Ernest Francisco Fenollosa’s (1853-1908) lawyer. Hull often acted as an agent, facilitating purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa, as well as purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa's well-known associate, Bunshichi Kobayashi (see correspondence, Hull to Freer, 1898-1900, as well as invoices from E.S. Hull Jr., 1898-1900, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives). See also, Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), pgs. 15 and 34. See further, Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art, (Washington, DC and New York: Freer Gallery of Art and H. N. Abrams, 1993), pgs. 133-134.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Former owner
Edward S. Hull Jr. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
On View Location
Freer Gallery 07: Painting the Classics: Japanese Scrolls and Beyond
cherry blossom, Edo period (1615 - 1868), game playing, Japan, kakemono, playing, ukiyo-e
Collection(s) Area
Japanese Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

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