Details
A pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, colour and gold leaf on paper, black lacquer frame with engraved copper fittings, the right screen signed Tosa Hokkyo Shikibu Masanobu hitsu and sealed, the left screen signed Tosa Shikibu hitsu and sealed
171 x 380 cm. (6714 x 126 in.) (when unfolded)
171 x 65 cm. (6714 x 2558 in.) (when folded)


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Lot Essay

The eleventh-century literary masterpiece The Tale of Genji is set almost entirely in the capital city of Kyoto and its environs. Here, twelve scenes out of a total of fifty-four chapters appear across the two screens. The convention of “blown-off roofs” (fukinuki yatai) allows the viewer clear views into interiors, mostly aristocratic mansions.

One of the most famous scenes from the book is illustrated in the centre of the left-hand screen. The Kemari Scene from chapter 34 (Spring Shoots I) features Prince Genji's new young wife, known as the Third Princess, watching a game of kemari (kickball) from behind a bamboo curtain in springtime. Suddenly her cat rushes out, offering Genji's rival at court, Kashiwagi, a brief glimpse of the princess. They subsequently begin an affair that leads to the birth of a son, Kaoru, whom Genji must accept even though he is aware of the illicit liaison. Viewers familiar with the narrative would enjoy the challenge of identifying characters, episodes, and plot points.

For a different depiction of the Kemari scene on an 18th century screen in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, accession no. 2013.29.12, go to:
https://collections.artsmia.org/art/116972/scene-from-the-spring-shoots-i-chapter-of-the-tale-of-genji-japan

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