江戸時代 関屋蒔絵螺鈿盆 Tray with Scene from the Tale of Genji
Edo period (1615–1868)
early 17th century
Black lacquer with gold maki-e and mother-of-pearl inlay
H. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm); W. 30 1/8 in. (76.5 cm); D. 16 1/8 in. (41 cm)
Purchase, Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation Gift, 2002
Not on view
The size, geometric motifs, and extensive use of pearl shell suggest that this tray may have been intended for trade to Europe. The imagery, however, derives from the Tale of Genji, one of Japan’s most famous literary works. Written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu (ca. 978–ca. 1014), this lengthy book traces the customs of the aristocratic society and the tumultuous love life of Hikaru Genji, a distant member of the imperial family.
The tray illustrates a moment when Genji (seated in the cart and not visible) passes by a former illicit lover while traveling. Both are assailed by bittersweet memories as they glimpse each other in passing.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Japan," 2002.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Mother-of-Pearl: A Tradition in Asian Lacquer," December 2, 2006–April 1, 2007.
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.
McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College. "Spiritual Beliefs and Earthly Goods: Jesuits and the Exchange between Portugal and Japan in the Age of Exploration," February 16, 2013–June 2, 2013.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sumptuous: East Asian Lacquer, 14th–20th Century," October 25, 2014–August 9, 2015.