The Story of the Uji Bridge Lady

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Artist: Sumiyoshi Jokei (1599-1670)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 17th century
Ink, color, gold and silver on paper
H x W (overall): 30.5 x 1321 cm (12 x 520 1/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


bridge, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, woman
Provenance research underway.

Handscrolls illustrating narrative fiction were popular in the imperial court of the Heian period (794-1185) and were highly valued possessions. This scroll recounts the story of a noblewoman who lives with her husband outside Kyoto. Her husband plays his flute near the seashore. When he falls asleep, the lady is told by an elderly woman that he has gone to the palace of the Dragon King of the Sea, where he has been forced to marry the king's daughter. Following the elderly woman's instructions, the lady prepares food for the attendants of the Dragon King, and then observes them from behind a brushwood fence.  The lady meets her husband briefly, but they are forced to return to their separate worlds. All that remains of their meeting is a seashell, leaving the lady to lament her fate and to wonder whether she has only dreamed of her husband.

Sumiyoshi Jokei's original name was Tosa Hiromichi. His painting epitomizes the elegant and detailed courtly style for which Tosa school painters, who enjoyed the patronage of the Kyoto imperial court, were known. Later in his life, Jokei established an independent school of artists in Edo and worked under the patronage of the Tokugawa shoguns, who sought to surround themselves with the elegant culture of the Kyoto imperial court. He was given the name Sumiyoshi by order of Emperor Gosai (1637–1685) when he was appointed as official painter for the Sumiyoshi Shrine. The painter's seals on this scroll read "Tosa" and "Hiromichi," so the scroll must date to the period prior to his name change. Several court calligraphers wrote the text of the story over gold underpaintings.

Published References
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 83, vol. 2: p. 177.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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