- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
Tosa Mitsunobu, Japanese (active c. 1469-1522)
- The Twilight Beauty (Yûgao), Illustration to Chapter 4 of the Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari)
- Other Titles
- Transliterated Title: Genji monogatari: Yûgao
- 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 fourth 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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- Genji & Yûgao together in a garden room listening to the sound of fabric being pounded (upper right) and an old man praying in preparation for a pilgrimage (lower left).
Label Text: 32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean , written 2014
Harvard’s Genji Album is the oldest known complete cycle of album leaves of The Tale of Genji. A foundational work of Japanese literature, it recounts the life and loves of the fictional prince Hikaru Genji—a man of rare physical beauty and cultivated taste who epitomized the romantic ideal of Heian period (794–1185) nobility.
On the basis of style, the painted leaves have been attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu. Recent research has shed even more light on the circumstances surrounding the album’s original production. A medieval courtier’s diary suggests that it was commissioned by a provincial warrior who arranged for six prominent courtiers to provide the calligraphic excerpts. It is assumed that he also arranged for the illustrations to be provided by Mitsunobu, who was head of the Imperial Painting Bureau.
East Asian books and albums are traditionally viewed from right to left. The leaf at right illustrates a scene from chapter 3, in which Genji spies on Utsusemi, a young lady who has recently rejected him (1985.352.3.A). Genji bides his time, watching Utsusemi play the game of go with a companion, Nokiba no Ogi, waiting for a chance to meet with Utsusemi again. On the left, the painting from chapter 4 (1985.352.4.A) shows Genji and another of his lovers, Yūgao, sitting in her humble abode. Though she is a woman of some standing, her lodgings are quite lowly, and the romantic meeting is interrupted by the sounds of women pounding robes on a fulling block (upper right corner) and an old pilgrim praying loudly (lower left corner). The poetic imagery of the migrating geese, the full moon, and the sounds of the fulling block evokes a sense of autumnal melancholy.
- 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. 25
Anne Rose Kitagawa, "Behind the Scenes of Harvard's Tale of Genji album", Apollo, Vol. CLIV No. 477, November 2001, p. 33 / Fig. 6 (left)
Melissa McCormick, "Genji Goes West: The 1510 Genji Album and the Visualization of Court and Capital", Art Bulletin, College Art Association of America (New York, March 2003), LXXXV No. 1, p. 76 / Fig. 25 (left)
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. 1 / p. 128 with details on p. 136 (2), 137 & 149
Charo B. D'Etcheverry, Love After _The Tale of Genji_: Rewriting the World of the Shining Prince, Harvard University Asia Center Publications and Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2007), Cover image (with caption info on rear inside dust jacket)
Takeshi Noguchi, Genji monogatari sennen kinen [The Millenium of The Tale of Genji], exh. cat., The Museum of Kyoto (Kyoto, Japan, April 2008), p. 160, Cat. No. 70
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, Folio Society (2016), vol. 1, ill. opp. p. 70
- Exhibition History
The Millennium of the Tale of Genji, The Museum of Kyoto, Kyoto, 04/26/2008 - 06/08/2008
32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/04/2015 - 11/29/2015
- Related Works
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