The Tale of Genji and Genji cards, Edo period (1615–1868)
Reisai (Japanese, 18th–19th century)
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper; 7 x 6 1/2 in. (17.8 x 16.5 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP2187)
This limited-edition New Year's greeting card (surimono) has a playful, symbolic-laden composition. The image shows a set of woodblock-printed books, the Kogessho, which is an annotated edition of the Tale of Genji published around 1673. Next to it, scattered playing cards depict two chapters from the Tale of Genji: the Kobai (Rose Plum) and the Wakamurasaki (Lavender), both illustrated with not only their usual pictorial depictions, but "Genji-crests" (Genji-mon) as well. The two chapters are related to the incense culture and the Genji-crest is a symbol used in the Genji-ko incense game. The poem on the print mentions the two chapters and the dawn of the New Year in Edo. Classical literature, incense, poetry, and the traditions of the incense game are all captured in one composition.