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Museum Collection Exhibition
Pictured Tales: From Courtly Narratives to Medieval Short Stories
November 14, Saturday- December 23, Wednesday, 2015
Closed Mondays, except 11/23, and closed on 11/24
Hours 10 am to 5 pm
(entrance closed at 4:30 pm)
Adult 1000 yen, Student 800 yen
Garrely 1/2

Telling a tale in pictures has long been a source of delight. So compelling are pictured tales that, for example, the first written reference to The Tales of Ise, which occurs in The Tale of Genji, mentions an illustrated handscroll version, not the book itself. Of course, paintings telling The Tale of Genji also began to appear almost as soon as Murasaki Shikibu put down her brush. During Japan’s middle ages, tales were depicted exclusively in small-scale formats such as handscrolls, books, and poem papers. In the early modern period, however, they began to become the subjects of folding screens, a much larger format. Tales told in pictures expanded into imposing pieces decorating interiors.

This exhibition brings together pictured tales, depictions of a great variety of narratives, in a wide range of forms. The tales range from Heian court literature, including The Tales of Ise and The Tale of Genji, through military epics such as The Tale of the Heike and The Tale of the Soga Brothers, The Tale of Saigyō, a biography of a monk-poet, and short stories such as “The Tale of Shutendōji.” Enjoy the last of the autumn season with these combinations of tales and pictures.

Gallery Exhibits

To download exhibition catalogue, please click here.

Scenes from The Tale of Genji
By Sumiyoshi Gukei
Japan Edo period, 17th century Nezu Museum
The right screen depicts the celebration of Genji’s fortieth birthday from the “Spring Shoots I” chapter of The Tale of Genji, while the left screen depicts Genji and Lady Murasaki on their pilgrimage to the Sumiyoshi Shrine, from the “Spring Shoots II” chapter. These screens brilliantly present Genji’s happiness just before the tale takes a darker turn.
Scenes from The Tale of the Soga Brothers
Japan Edo period, 17th century Nezu Museum
The Tale of the Soga Brothers is a popular warrior tale based on two brothers, Soga Jūrō and Gorō, and their quest to avenge their father’s death. The right screen presents the decisive scene: the brothers have slipped into a hunt at the foot of Mount Fuji hosted by the shogun, Minamoto Yoritomo, to discover their enemy.
Scenes from The Tale of the Heike
Japan Edo period, 17th century Nezu Museum
The Tale of the Heike describes the rise and fall of Heike clan, who acquired great power and influence in the twelfth century. The 120 small fan-shaped paintings in these albums depict a great variety of episodes in detail.
Scenes from "The Tale of a Toad"
Attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu
Japan Muromachi period, 16th century Nezu Museum
An impoverished man helps a toad who had been shut up underneath a wealthy man’s house. The daughter of the house, who had fallen ill due to the toad’s grudge against the family, is cured, and the impoverished man becomes her husband.
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