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Episode from 'The bluebell', Chapter 20 of the 'Tale of Genji'

circa 1650-1700


Tosa Mitsuoki


1617 – 1691

  • Details

    Other Title
    Scene from 'Asagao' (The Morning Glory), Chapter 20 of the 'Tale of Genji'
    Place where the work was made
    circa 1650-1700
    Media categories
    Scroll , Painting
    Materials used
    hanging scroll; ink and colour on silk
    39.6 x 86.2 cm
    Purchased 2004
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Tosa Mitsuoki

    Works in the collection


  • About

    This delicately painted hanging scroll illustrates a key episode of Chapter 20. Word of Genji’s flirtations with Princess Asagao (‘Bluebell’) has reached Murasaki. Genji tries to placate her by sending her page girls out into the garden to play in the snow. Mitsuoki has depicted this scene from a bird’s-eye view, giving a sense of distance from the figures which, combined with the supporting beam that separates them, evokes the emotional distance between Genji and Murasaki. He turns toward her, one hand poised hesitantly as if unsure of how to comfort his love, who remains downcast despite his conciliatory efforts. Close inspection reveals superb attention to detail, as demonstrated by the minutely painted mandarin ducks, an ironic evocation of marital fidelity, and the cracked ice on the surface of the nearby pond.

    Asian Art Department, AGNSW.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 5 publications