Identification and Creation
Object Number
Tosa Mitsunobu, Japanese (active c. 1469-1522)
Beneath the Oak (Shiigamoto), Illustration to Chapter 46 of the Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari)
Other Titles
Transliterated Title: Genji monogatari: Shiigamoto
Work Type
painting, album leaf
Muromachi period, datable to 1509-1510
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan, Kyôto Metropolitan Area, Kyôto
Muromachi period, 1392-1568
Physical Descriptions
The forty-sixth of a series of 54 painted album leaves mounted in an album with calligraphic excerpts; ink, color, and gold on paper
H. 24.2 cm x W. 18.0 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of the Hofer Collection of the Arts of Asia
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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At the snowy villa of the Eighth Prince, Kaoru sits on the verandah reading a poem sent by Oigimi. She is seen with her sister and their servant.

Label Text: Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Paintings from China, Korea, and Japan , written 2000
This album—which includes one illustration and one textual excerpt apiece for each of the fifty-four chapters of the Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari)—is now thought to contain the earliest extant complete, painted-album-leaf-format version of this seminal work of Japanese literature. The album has thus become a primary visual document of both medieval Genji text/picture ensembles and early Tosa-school painting. As such, it has helped to change the timeworn image of the Muromachi-period (1392–1569) cultural aesthetic, in which Chinese-inspired ink painting completely dominated the more indigenous Japanese courtly painting styles. On the basis of style, the painted leaves in this album have been attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu, founder of the Tosa school. Recent textual research and new evidence discovered during conservation have shed a fresh light on the circumstances surrounding the ensemble’s original production. Entries in a medieval courtier’s diary suggest that the patron for this set was a provincial warrior who arranged for six prominent courtiers to provide nine calligraphic excerpts apiece. It is assumed that he also arranged for appropriate illustrations to be provided by Tosa Mitsunobu, head of the Edokoro, the imperial Bureau of Painting.
The painting on the right illustrates a scene from Chapter 45, which seems almost like the beginning of a new novel. The final ten chapters of Genji are often referred to as the “Uji chapters,” since much of their plot concerns two sisters raised in seclusion in melancholy Uji. In this painting, Kaoru, the antihero of the end of the tale, peeks through a bamboo fence to catch a glimpse of the sisters, who sit on their veranda playing music in the moonlight. This chance encounter causes Kaoru to fall hopelessly in love with the elder sister, Oigimi, who is shown holding her lute, with plectrum aloft. (The younger sister’s presence is implied by her instrument, the end of which is visible just behind Oigimi.) Kaoru has come to Uji to study Buddhist scriptures with the girls’ father, but unwittingly sets in motion the tragic series of events that make up the final chapters of this long, romantic tale. The painting on the left shows a scene from Chapter 46, in which Kaoru has returned to console the sisters after the sudden death of their father. They are too shy to face him directly, but Oigimi’s poems are passed to him in an adjacent room, where he contemplates them before the snowy river landscape. This is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the album, and typifies the traditional, indigenous yamato-e style of the period.

Publication History

Kaori Chino, "Tokushû: Genji monogatari gajô - Hâvâdo Daigaku Bijutsukan zô" [Special Issue: The Tale of Genji Album in the Collection of Harvard University Art Museums] (Tokyo, Japan, 1997), p. 36

Le Dit du Genji de Murasaki-shikibu [The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu]: Illustré par la peinture traditionnelle japonaise du XII au XVII siècle [Illustrated by traditional Japanese painting of the 12th through 17th century], Editions Diane de Selliers (Paris, France, 2007 & 2008), Vol. 3 / p. 148 with details on p. 154 (2), 162 & 166

Taguchi Eiichi, Sugu wakaru Genji monogatari no kaiga (Tokyo, 2009), p. 129

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, Folio Society (2016), vol. 2, ill. opp. p. 901

Exhibition History

Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Paintings from China, Korea, and Japan, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/25/2000 - 08/26/2001

Related Works

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