Cherry Blossoms at Genji's Rokujo Mansion
(Genji Rokujo no hana)
signed Toyokuni ga within the artist's toshidama cartouche on each sheet and Hanmoto no oko ni tsuki monjin Kunitsuna hojo (With the help of his pupil Kunitsuna, in accordance with the wishes of the publisher) on the left sheet, publisher's seal Mori, Ba, Ni, Moriji (Moriya Jihei of Kinshindo), with censor's seal aratame (examined) and date seal Tora-juni (year of the tiger , 12th month)
oban tate-e triptych 30 1/2 by 14 5/8 in., 77.5 by 37.3 cm
This composition depicts the much beloved cherry blossom viewing episode from the Nise Murasaki inaka Genji (A Rustic Genji), a literary parody of the 11th century novel Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) published in serial installments between 1829 and 1842. Ashikaga Mitsuuji, the Rustic Genji's protagonist who is adapted from the titular Prince Genji, stands in a landscape of blossoming white trees. In the story, Mitsuuji is participating in a blossom viewing festival at the "Palace of Flowers," the Ashikaga residence. The scene contains many elements which are iconic in Rustic Genji iconography, from the sloping hills to the lake and its foot bridge, which lies behind the mansion.
The two beauties in the right sheet, standing on a raised platform overlooking the garden, is an allusion to Onna Sannomiya (The Third Princess) in the original Genji monogatari. In chapter thirty-four of the original novel, Sannomiya is spotted by Genji when she steps out onto a veranda to catch her cat, which had scurried out from behind the window blinds. In this composition, the beauty in a red floral robe wearing a youthful cherry blossom hair ornament stands holding a black and white cat on a leash in a typical playful reference to the classic story. While in Genji monogatari, the focus is on Genji who catches a glimpse of Sannomiya, here it is the beauty who giggles delightedly at the sight of Mitsuuji, while the young man himself is distracted by a fan.
Andreas Marks, Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2012, pp. 21, 170-172 (re: cherry blossom comparisons)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession nos. 11.15169VR and 11.43490a-c
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site last updated
December 15, 2018
Scholten Japanese Art
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New York, New York 10019
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