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Portrait-Icon of Murasaki Shikibu (Murasaki Shikibu zu)

Tosa Mitsuoki Japanese

Not on view

Murasaki Shikibu appears poised to begin writing her tale, pausing as if in mid-thought. Her head tilts away from her desk, while her trancelike stare is directed slightly upward, toward the calligraphy sheets in the upper portion of the painting. The inscriptions list the four stages of Tendai Buddhist contemplation (shimon) that Murasaki was said to have mastered, along with two of her waka (thirty-one-syllable poems) that speak to life’s impermanence (mujōkan).

Portrait-Icon of Murasaki Shikibu (Murasaki Shikibu zu), Tosa Mitsuoki (Japanese, 1617–1691), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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