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Screen with Scene from the Tale of Genji

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Kano Seisen'in Osanobu
Japanese (1796 - 1846) Primary

Screen with Scene from the Tale of Genji

1819 - 1834

70 x 151 1/2 x 11/16 in. (177.8 x 384.81 x 1.75 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 2014.4.15
Geography: Asia, Japan
Culture/Nationality: Japanese
Collection: Helen B. Chapin '15 Collection
This is an early nineteenth century screen by Kano Seisen'in Osanobu (1796-1846). As indicated by the signature "Seisen Hogen Osanobu hitsu," the work was completed between 1819 and 1834, the years the artist was awarded the honorary court titles of hogen and hoin. As the last great master of the Kano school, Osanobu attached great importance to the study of classical paintings and reproduced a large number of ancient Chinese and Japanese paintings, not least of which included the reconstruction of Edo Castle’s decorative program in 1845. The vibrant six-fold Osanobu screen in Bryn Mawr’s collection is a beautiful example of the artist’s adept homage and adaptation of classical conventions. Made at the height of the Osanobu’s career, this work draws on the traditions of the Kano and Tosa schools to illustrate a key moment from Genji Monogatari.

The subject of Osanobu’s screen is the fifth chapter from the Tale of Genji. In this depiction of Wakamurasaki, “the shining prince” is shown at the center of the golden byobu design. Dressed in white and standing under a cherry tree in full bloom, Genji and his male companion seem to be enjoying the beauty of the surrounding deep green hills and a nearby cascading waterfall. Concealed by the cherry bough, Genji gazes up at a charming scene. The prince is covertly and attentively observing a group of lavishly dressed women in an expansive interior. On the balcony of this courtly home, a beautiful young girl peers into the landscape as she mourns the flight of her pet sparrow. As the narrative goes, this is the first moment that Genji sees his future beloved Murasaki. The high angular perspective of the composition and the unobstructed fukinuki yatai view of the interior provide us with a privileged vantage point from which to admire the scene. Osanobu's use of thick black ink and fine detail in his rendering of Murasaki’s features create a focal point in the screen’s imagery. As the viewer’s eye is drawn through the composition by the striking gold-leaf and brilliant pigments, the viewer’s gaze, like Genji’s, circles back to appreciate the beauty of the young Murasaki. The execution and arrangement of the work are dynamic and striking.

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • folding screens - Refers to screens comprising two or more panels in a frame which has hinged sections that can be folded to adjust coverage. They are often decorated. Early examples include the Chinese form, mentioned as early as the 2nd century BCE. The earliest surviving examples date to the Ming dynasty. Folding screens were introduced to Japan from China in the 8th century; such screens were often designed in pairs in Japan. From the early 17th century eastern folding screens were imported to Europe and the form was soon adopted by European craftsmen.
  • Japanese - Nationality, periods, cultures, and styles found in Japan, either in historical times or in the present.
  • Kano School - Refers to the work of a school of painters patronized from the late Muromachi period (1333-1568) through the Edo period (1600-1868) by successive military governments. Founded by Kano Masanobu (1434-1530) in the mid-15th century, the school emphasized the conservative Chinese Southern Song and Yuan academic styles, and grew into a large network of artists who held control over public and private commissions from the shogunate, monasteries and merchant classes for over 200 years. Kano artists produced a wide variety of works from fans to screen painting to hanging scrolls and votive plates. The Kano school was also well known for its bold style of ink painting.

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Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
  • The Tale of Genji: From Princesses to Pop Bryn Mawr College , Jan 25, 2017 – Mar 5, 2017

Bibliography List
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Felice Fischer and Kyoko Kinoshita. Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano Philadelphia Museum of Art. New Haven, CT, 2015
    Figure Number: E13
  • "Bryn Mawr College Alumnae Bulletin," Bryn Mawr College Alumnae Bulletin (May 2015): 13.
  • The Annual Report for the Sumitomo Foundation Sumitomo Foundation. 2015
    Page Number: 81
  • "Conservation and Restoration of the Collections," Mirabile Dictu: The Bryn Mawr College Library Newsletter 18 (Fall 2015): 8.

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Screen with Scene from the Tale of Genji |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=7/2/2022 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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