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Exhibitions/ The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated

The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated

At The Met Fifth Avenue
March 5–June 16, 2019

Exhibition Catalogue

Handsomely designed and profusely illustrated, this groundbreaking book discusses more than one hundred works that illuminate the importance of Genji.

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Exhibition Overview

This is the first major loan exhibition in North America to focus on the artistic tradition inspired by Japan's most celebrated work of literature, The Tale of Genji. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting in the early eleventh-century imperial court, and often referred to as the world's first psychological novel, the tale recounts the amorous escapades of the "Shining Prince" Genji and introduces some of the most iconic female characters in the history of Japanese literature. Covering the period from the eleventh century to the present, the exhibition features more than 120 works, including paintings, calligraphy, silk robes, lacquer wedding set items, a palanquin for the shogun's bride, and popular art such as ukiyo-e prints and modern manga. Highlights include two National Treasures and several works recognized as Important Cultural Properties. For the first time ever outside Japan, rare works are on view from Ishiyamadera Temple—where, according to legend, Shikibu started writing the tale.

Accompanied by a catalogue.


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"Sheer pleasure" —The Washington Post

"Captivating" —The Wall Street Journal

"Glorious . . . as sumptuous and sprawling as the book itself" —The New York Times

"The 'Game of Thrones' fan base is nothing compared to the one for 'The Tale of Genji'"—The New York Post

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Japan Foundation, with the cooperation of the Tokyo National Museum and Ishiyamadera Temple.
Logos for Japan 2019 and Japan Foundation

It is made possible by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation Fund, 2015; the Estate of Brooke Astor; the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; and Ann M. Spruill and Daniel H. Cantwell.

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Florence and Herbert Irving Fund for Asian Art Publications; the Charles A. Greenfield Fund; The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation; the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation Fund, 2015; the Parnassus Foundation; and Richard and Geneva Hofheimer Memorial Fund.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

Exhibition Objects

Book promo

An exhibition catalogue and accompanying picture album explore Genji's wide-ranging influence on Japanese culture, design, and aesthetics. Both profusely illustrated volumes present stunning works derived from the epic account of Japanese court life, welcoming the reader into a world of romance and political intrigue. Available at The Met Store.


Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691). Portrait-Icon of Murasaki Shikibu. Edo Period (1615–1868), 17th century. Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk; 35 5/8 x 20 3/4 in. (90.5 x 52.7 cm). Ishiyamadera Temple, Shiga Prefecture, Courtesy of Ishiyamadera Temple, photo by Kanai Morio