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The Tale of Genji

A work made of pair of six-panel screens; ink, colors, and gold on paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of pair of six-panel screens; ink, colors, and gold on paper.


early 17th century


Artist Unknown

About this artwork




This pair of folding screens depicts a few favorite moments from the 11th-century Tale of Genji, written by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu. Though they take place at disparate times in the story, the five episodes selected from the novel’s fifty-four chapters are set in one continuous landscape. Among these scenes is one on the far right showing the baby Genji being presented to his father, the emperor, for the first time. Across the bottom of left screen, court ladies argue which season is the most beautiful. Above, in the upper right corner, Genji and his love, Lady Murasaki, share an intimate moment in front of a charcoal brazier.

Each scene was seemingly chosen for its felicitous overtones. The overall character of the pair suggest that they were painted to be part of a bride’s wedding trousseau, and would therefore accompany her to her new home. Lavishly decorated folding screens made up an important part of such collections, which included kimono, lacquer toiletry sets, games, and other luxury items.

The figural style and landscape are reminiscent of the Kano school of painters. Tale of Genji screens attributed to artists of this school are the earliest-known screens to depict the story.


On View, Gallery 109


Arts of Asia


The Tale of Genji


Japan (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Pair of six-panel screens; ink, colors, and gold on paper


166 × 371 cm (65 3/8 × 146 1/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Robert Allerton in honor of Mr. & Mrs. William McCormick Blair's fiftieth wedding anniversary

Reference Number


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