“She had charming features, rich unplucked eyebrows, and lovely hair, which she had childishly brushed back from her forehead. … A sudden realization brought tears to [Genji’s] eyes: she bore a stunning resemblance to the lady for whom he yearned.” – Chapter Five, “Lavender,” The Tale of Genji
CHAPTER 5 Summary
Upon first observing her resemblance to his forbidden lover, Genji becomes determined to bring the young Murasaki into his household. Although his requests to take in the orphan are denied, Genji steals away with her anyway. She comes to live with him at Nijo Palace, where Genji oversees her education until eventually she becomes his beloved wife.
12017-05-31T14:28:08+00:00Nathanael Roesche2b52a0fe25f47457902361b2112b14c75ecc6aaScreen with Scene from The Tale of Genji3Genji is born to a beautiful, but socially low-ranking courtesan, “Lady Kiritsubo,” the emperor’s most beloved mistress. Her premature death disqualifies Genji from succession to the throne. The emperor is nevertheless greatly attached to the boy, even marrying a young princess, Lady Fujitsubo, who reminds him of Genji’s mother. The boy grows up to be a magnetic youth, developing a sense of style and reputation as the “shining” prince that make him a highly desired paramour and feared rival. Seeking to secure the social position of this beloved son, the Emperor arranges Genji’s marriage to a well-connected princess, Lady Aoi no Ue. But, The Tale of Genji is not a straightforward story of monogamous love. Instead, Genji’s long-held regard for his stepmother grows into a forbidden love affair that produces a son, Renzei, who is raised as if the legitimate future emperor. The scene in our screen illustrates the young Murasaki, the niece of Lady Fujitsubo, whose resemblance to his forbidden love compels Genji’s interest in her. He oversees her education, falls in love with her, and finally marries her. These three central female characters of the Tale, all of whom are remarkably similar in appearance, serve as symbolic reincarnations of Genji’s feminine ideal in ways that connect the otherwise winding narrative vignettes of The Tale of Genji. In 2015 and 2016, Bryn Mawr’s Department of Special Collections received substantial grants from The Sumitomo Foundation to restore fully the remarkable work at the center of this exhibition. The Sumitomo Foundation provides grants in support of the preservation of significant works of Japanese culture housed in foreign collections. Bryn Mawr’s screen is significant for several reasons. Only a few works by this artist of a similar scale and execution still exist in the world, and this one was produced at the height of the Kano master’s career, when he was awarded the honorary court titles of hogen and hoin. This work was likely commissioned as part of a princess’s dowry, its ties to the Shogunal family indicated by the Tokugawa family crest (hollyhock mon) lining the exterior edges of the frame. For Helen Burwell Chapin (Class of 1914, AB 1915), a noteworthy western scholar of East Asian art and the donor of Bryn Mawr’s Osanobu screen, The Tale of Genji must have been a compelling bridge into Japan’s aesthetics and past.media/2014.4.15_BMC_AT_02.jpgplain2017-05-31T14:45:11+00:00Kano Seisen'in Osanobu (1796–1846)1819–18342014.4.15Gift of Helen Burwell Chapin (Class of 1914, AB 1915)Nathanael Roesche2b52a0fe25f47457902361b2112b14c75ecc6aa
12017-05-31T18:05:40+00:00Nathanael Roesche2b52a0fe25f47457902361b2112b14c75ecc6aaMurasaki’s Education2media/Seidensticker p111.jpgplain2017-05-31T18:06:50+00:00Yamamoto Shunsho (1610–1682)On loan from Haverford CollegeWoodblock print illustration, facsimile from Edward G. Seidensticker (trans.), “Lavender,” The Tale of Genji (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1976)Nathanael Roesche2b52a0fe25f47457902361b2112b14c75ecc6aa