Scenes from the Tales of Ise


Not on view

Most versions of the tenth-century Tales of Ise comprise 125 uta monogatari, or short tales accompanied by poems. In this pair of early seventeenth-century screens, eight poems have been selected from the tale and inscribed within the gold of the clouds and ground. Each poemtale begins with a brief prose passage that sets up an exchange of waka (poems of 31 syllables) between the aristocratic hero Ariwara no Narihira (825–880) and, for the most part, the numerous women with whom he is romantically involved. (Not all his interlocutors are love interests; his friends and other female characters figure in the tales as well.) The poems reflect upon the famous places and beguiling scenery that Narihira encounters during his travels, thus appealing to the tastes of the cultivated elite. The Tales of Ise has remained influential, serving as a source for illustrations in various media.

Scenes from the Tales of Ise, Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper, Japan

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2015.300.103.1, right screen, overall