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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
  • Description

    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

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
53622:15

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