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

Kiyohara Yukinobu Japanese

Not on view

This painting illustrates the legend of Murasaki Shikibu writing The Tale of Genji at Ishiyamadera, capturing her in midcomposition as she replenishes the ink in her brush and gazes toward the moon’s reflection on the water. Voluminous otherworldly clouds roiling above indicate that something supernatural is afoot and suggest the workings of the bodhisattva Kannon, who is said to have inspired Murasaki’s sudden insight.

Kiyohara Yukinobu was a lauded female professional painter with an exalted Kano-school pedigree. She used a subdued palette and ample negative space to create an ethereal atmosphere, punctuated by boldly inked rocks and trees as well as touches of precisely applied vibrant color. The unusual inclusion of an ink landscape screen, depicted behind Murasaki Shikibu, hints at Yukinobu’s training in Chinese-style ink painting.

Murasaki Shikibu Gazing at the Moon (Murasaki Shikibu kangetsu zu), Kiyohara Yukinobu (Japanese, 1643–1682), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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