Japan has a long history of recognizing the talents of great female poets. During the Heian period (794–1185), the golden age of the Japanese imperial court, women stood out as practitioners of a specific type of poetry called waka and the novel. This exhibition focuses on two most of the country’s most renowned female poets, Murasaki Shikibu (about 973–1016) and Ono no Komachi (active about 833–57). Although little is known about them, these women inspired numerous legends, some of which became the subjects of Nō and Kabuki plays, as well as woodblock prints. The images in this exhibition, made during the Edo (1615–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods, show the various ways in which artists have interpreted these stories.
Katsushika Hokusai. The Poetess Ono no Komachi, from the series Six Immortal Poets (Rokkasen), about 1810. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. George Mann.