Parody of a scene from The Tale of Genji

Artist: Kawamata Tsuneyuki 川又常行 (1676?-1741?)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early 18th century
Ink, color, and gold on paper
H x W (image): 53.4 × 53.4 cm (21 × 21 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

cherry blossom, Edo period (1615 - 1868), game playing, Japan, kakemono, playing, ukiyo-e

To 1898
Edward S. Hull Jr., New York to 1898 [1]

From 1898 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Edward S. Hull Jr. in 1898 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Panel List, L. 6, pg. 2, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Edward S. Hull Jr. was Ernest Francisco Fenollosa’s (1853-1908) lawyer. Hull often acted as an agent, facilitating purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa, as well as purchases of objects consigned to him by Fenollosa's well-known associate, Bunshichi Kobayashi (see correspondence, Hull to Freer, 1898-1900, as well as invoices from E.S. Hull Jr., 1898-1900, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives). See also, Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), pgs. 15 and 34. See further, Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art, (Washington, DC and New York: Freer Gallery of Art and H. N. Abrams, 1993), pgs. 133-134.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Edward S. Hull Jr. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


The Tale of Genji, written in the early eleventh century by Murasaki Shikibu, a woman of the imperial court, became widely known during the Edo period (1615-1868) through illustrated printed books. By the eighteenth century, when this painting was created, the conventional elements identifying famous episodes were recognizable, even without text. Here a scene from the thirty-fourth chapter of Genji is transformed into an unexpected contemporary context through a convention known as mitate (often translated as "parody"), a literary and pictorial device that employs an unexpected parallel or comparison between apparently unrelated images.

In The Tale of Genji, an illicit romance begins when Prince Genji's rival at court glimpses Genji's new wife as a cat pushes the bamboo curtain aside during a game of kemari, a form of kickball. Here, the Genji scene is suggested by the white kemari ball, the spring setting, and the woman concealed behind a bamboo blind, but instead of Heian-period (794-1185) courtiers, the women in the courtyard are contemporary courtesans of the urban "floating world," and the woman behind the blind, who is a high-ranking courtesan, reclines as she allows the red lining of her kimono to show alluringly outside the curtain.

Published References
  • Harold P. Stern. Ukiyo-e Painting: Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington and Baltimore, 1973. cat. 47, pp. 120-121.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.