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Murasaki Shikibu Gazing at the Moon (Murasaki Shikibu kangetsu zu)

Tosa Mitsuoki Japanese

Not on view

This painting illustrates the legend of Murasaki Shikibu being guided by the bodhisattva Kannon to write The Tale of Genji at Ishiyamadera as she gazes at the moon’s watery reflection. Legend states that she started with Chapter 12, “Exile to Suma,” hence the inclusion here of an inscription from that chapter, which describes Genji gazing at the moon over the water while in exile.

Tosa Mitsuoki’s painting emulates a 1560 hanging scroll by Tosa Mitsumoto that shows the author in quiet contemplation and suggests a belief in Murasaki as a manifestation of Kannon. The sharply contoured rocks in the foreground, representing the famous wollastonite crags of Ishiyamadera, also encouraged a view of the temple as a manifestation of Mount Potalaka, the mythical rocky-island dwelling of Kannon.

Murasaki Shikibu Gazing at the Moon (Murasaki Shikibu kangetsu zu), Tosa Mitsuoki (Japanese, 1617–1691), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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