Kunisada woodblock print

Utagawa Kunisada, (Toyokuni III, 1786-1865)

Illustrations of Genji Incense: Chapter 13, Akashi
(Genji-ko no zu: Akashi)

signed Ichiyosai Toyokuni ga, with censor seal Muramatsu (Muramatsu Genroku, active ca. 1843-46) and publisher's mark, Kyu, of Yamamotoya Heikichi, ca. 1844-46

chuban tate-e 9 3/4 by 7 1/8 in., 24.8 by 18 cm

In 1825 the writer Ryutei Tenehiko (1783-1842) began to publish a serial novel based on the classic 10th century epic, Genji Monogatari, ('The Tale of Genji') written by an unidentified court lady known as Lady Murasaki. This updated Genji, Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji ('The Imitation Murasaki and the Rustic Genji,' sometimes known as 'Genji in the Countryside') sparked a new fascination with the story, inspiring numerous print series based on both the new and old versions of the story.

In this series, Kunisada illustrates famous scenes from each chapter of the original Genji Monogatari based on classic Tosa school compositions. While most Genji-themed print series updated the figures to contemporary clothing and hairstyles of the period, here Kunisada adheres to Heian Period court fashions.

Chapter 13, Akashi, opens with Genji in Suma, a remote coastal area where he has been forced into exile due to false accusations back at the Imperial court. The chapter begins with a storm which frightens Genji and his attendants. When the torrent passes, his father, the former Emperor, comes to him in a dream and entreats Genji to leave Suma. The next day a monk (Genji's maternal uncle) arrives, who himself had a dream instructing him to go to Suma. The monk brings Genji to his home in Akashi where the Prince has an encounter with the monk's daughter. In this scene, we see Genji setting out on horseback on the evening of his single rendezvous with the Lady Akashi.

Reference:
Miyeko Murase, The Tale of Genji: Legends and Paintings, 2001, no. 13

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site last updated
May 13, 2019

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