Parody of Murasaki Shikibu at Her Desk

Okumura Masanobu Japanese

Not on view

What looks like a depiction of an Edo-period courtesan at a writing table is actually a parodic image of The Tale of Genji’s author, Murasaki Shikibu. According to legend, Murasaki secluded herself at Ishiyamadera Temple, where her contemplation of the moon’s reflection on Lake Biwa, as well as divine intervention, inspired her to begin writing the romantic narrative of courtly life. While most imaginary portraits show her in eleventh-century dress, here she appears clad in the fashion of the artist’s own day. The printmaker, painter, and poet Okumura Masanobu was among the early ukiyo-e artists who depicted famous female writers and their characters in the guise of commoners.

Parody of Murasaki Shikibu at Her Desk, Okumura Masanobu (Japanese, 1686–1764), Monochrome woodblock print (sumizuri-e); ink on paper, Japan

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