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An image of Chapter 'Asagao' from 'The Tale of Genji' with accompanying calligraphy by Sumiyoshi GUKEI

Sumiyoshi GUKEI

(Japan 1631 – 1705)

Chapter 'Asagao' from 'The Tale of Genji' with accompanying calligraphy
Place of origin
Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615 - 1868 → Japan
Media category
Materials used
two album leaves, illustration: ink, colour and gold on silk; calligraphy: ink on decorated paper

a - painting; 21.2 x 18.2 cm

b - calligraphy; 39.4 cm

Asian Collection Benefactors' Fund 2009
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Along with the Tosa-school in Kyoto, the Sumiyoshi lineage is considered the most important exponent of the indigenous Yamato-e tradition. The son of Sumiyoshi Jōkei (1561-1633), Gukei followed his father from Kyoto to Edo in the 17th century to work as an official painter for the Tokugawa Shogunate. In 1682, Gukei was appointed ‘painter-in-attendance’ ('oku eshi') to Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. This high rank secured the future of the Sumiyoshi lineage. Later, he was awarded the honorary title of 'hōgen' (‘Eye of the Dharma’).

The album leaf ‘Asagao’ and the accompanying calligraphy belongs to a set of 54 images (and 54 calligraphy), illustrating the 54 chapters of the 11th century literary masterwork 'The Tale of Genji'. Gukei’s illustration follows the traditional iconography for this chapter (Chapter 20 in the tale), showing Prince Genji’s attempt to cheer up Murasaki by ordering colourfully dressed page girls to shape snow balls in a wintry garden.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2009.