album leaf from Chapter 24 of The Tale of the Genji and accompanying calligraphy

The "Butterflies" Chapter of the Tale of Genji, 17th century

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This pair of album leaves presents a textual passage from and illustrations of the “Butterflies” chapter of The Tale of Genji. The text is written in flowing script on paper decorated with gold and silver. The accompanying illustrations, rendered in brilliant mineral pigments, combine two passages in the chapter: the spring festivities at Genji’s mansion during which fanciful boats transport musicians and noblewomen around the palace lake; and the following morning, when Genji’s most beloved consort sends her young attendants to dance for the empress. The text describes the scene near the close of the day’s events:

"The birds resounded bravely amid warblers’ sweet carolings, while here and there upon the lake waterbirds sang their own songs, and the effect of the rapid conclusion was endlessly delightful. How lightly, then, the butterflies flitted about, to flutter into the hedge at last among cascading kerria roses!"

—translation after Royall Tyler

The "Butterflies" Chapter of the Tale of Genji
Artist Life
1539 - 1613
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Masterpieces from the Japanese painting collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art ミネアポリス美術館 日本絵画の名品 Cat.22
Curator Approved

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album leaf from Chapter 24 of The Tale of the Genji and accompanying calligraphy