|Artist||Utagawa Kuniaki (active c. 1850-60)|
|Dimensions||Vertical ôban triptych; each sheet 37 x 24.5 cm (14 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)|
Publisher: Daikokuya Heikichi
Signature: Kuniaki ga
A graphic night-time scene depicting ,Prince Genji looking out at a moonlit sea. The print illustrates a scene from the Genji monogatari [The Tale of Genji], an eleventh-century courtly romance considered one of the earliest and most important novels in world history.
Written around 1011 by a female writer, Murasaki Shikibu, the daughter of a regional governor, it traces, through a series of loosely connected stories, the tangled private life of the son of an emperor, Hikaru Genji, and his progeny.
As Lady Murasaki's original holograph of the story is no longer extant, the text accepted as the most complete is the Kamakura-period Aobyôshibon (Blue-covered book) transcribed by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241).
By Teika's time the novel's present form of 54 titled chapters was set. The tale has been not only the most quoted piece of Japanese literature but has also served as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for pictorial artists from soon after its completion.
While the novel ostensibly deals with the tangled round of Genji's life and love affairs at court, its principle underlying theme is the notion of the transience of life and the temporal fragility of the love, pleasure and beauty that informs the protagonist's daily existence.
As such, it exemplifies the central Japanese concept of mono no aware, or the "awareness of the sadness of things", a tenet founded in Buddhist philosophy. Interwoven with this melancholy apprehension of evanescence, is the aesthetic miyabi - a concept with no specific English equivalent, but meaning something like beauty and the refinement of one's taste in art and etiquette.
The highest value in the court culture of Genji, it not only applies to Genji's glorious physical form (and others in the court), but to everything aspect of a courtier's personality and its expression. More than anything else, miyabi refers to the exquisite pleasure that an aesthetically educated person takes in seemingly insignificant and usually transient instances of beauty, such as fading cherry blossom, falling leaves or the cries of autumn geese.
Condition: Some trimming, wormholes, and slight fading.