Past Exhibitions

Illustrated Handscrolls of Narrative Literature
February 10, 2015 - March 15, 2015

Many illustrated handscrolls produced during Japan's Heian period (794–1185) depicted works of narrative literature favored by the aristocracy. In them, literary tales were transformed into exquisite works of art combining elegant calligraphy and meticulously executed paintings. This tradition of creating illustrated literary handscrolls continued throughout the medieval period and into the Edo period (1615–1868).

This exhibition features an early seventeenth century scroll depicting the "Aoi" (alternatively translated "Heartvine" or "Heart-to-Heart") chapter of The Tale of Genji. Written over a thousand years ago, The Tale of Genji, is considered the greatest work of Japanese literature and the world's first novel. Though numerous Genji handscrolls have been made over the centuries, the example on view is remarkable for its lavish scale.

Also on view is an Edo-period copy of Illustrated Tale of a Young Bamboo Plant (Nayotake monogatari emaki), which relates an amorous escapade of Emperor Gosaga (1220–1272) and the tragic Muromachi-period love story The Shower (Shigure monogatari emaki). You may note a contrast between the distinctive, unrestricted painting style of this work and the meticulous brushstrokes found in the Genji and Young Bamboo Plant scrolls, both of which were professionally produced.

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