The Illustrated Tale of Genji

Yamamoto Shunshō Japanese

Not on view

For centuries, The Tale of Genji circulated in manuscript copies limited to members of the social elite. The classic became more widely known starting only in the early Edo period (1615–1868), as texts of the entire tale, digests, and handbook-style synopses were printed, first in movable-type editions and then in more affordable woodblock-printed versions. One of the earliest mass-produced editions to include woodblock-printed illustrations was this multivolume version, first published in about 1650. The Kyoto- and sometimes Edo-based Yamamoto Shunshō, best known as a waka poet and lacquer artist, produced the designs for the woodblock prints, which in many cases adhered to the standardized Tosa canon for Genji pictures, but in others diverged from traditional iconography.

The Illustrated Tale of Genji, Yamamoto Shunshō (Japanese, 1610–1682), Twenty-four woodblock-printed volumes; ink on paper, Japan

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