Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Incense Box (Kōbako) with Scene from "His Perfumed Highness" (Niou no Miya), chapter 42 of the Tale of Genji

Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
19th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Gold maki-e on lacquered wood
Dimensions:
H. 2 in. (5.1 cm); W. 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm); L. 5 1/8 in. (13 cm)
Classification:
Lacquer
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. George A. Crocker (Elizabeth Masten), 1937
Accession Number:
38.25.158a, b
Not on view
The lid of this box is made of two interlocking seashells illustrating a chapter of the Tale of Genji. Publicly recognized as Genji's son, Kaoru has doubts about the circumstances of his birth. A poem voiced by the troubled man, and written above him within stylized clouds, reads:

Obotsukana tare ni towamashi
Ikanishite
hajimemo hatemo shiranu
wagami zo

(Whom might I ask? Why must it be that I do not know the beginning or the end?)

—trans. Edward G. Seidensticker, Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986), p. 737
Signature: Soei (in gold)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Courtly Romance in Japanese Art," May 12, 1989–July 12, 1989.

Ithaca. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. "The Tale of Genji: Splendor and Innovation in Edo Culture," March 29, 1997–June 15, 1997.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "No Ordinary Mortals: The Human Figure in Japanese Art," 2007–2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ukiyo-e Artists' Responses to Romantic Legends of Two Brothers: Narihira and Yukihira," March 27, 2008–June 8, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Beautiful Country: Yamato-e in Japanese Art," November 20, 2010–June 5, 2011.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Storytelling in Japanese Art," November 19, 2011–May 6, 2012.

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