Ariwara no Narihira

Artist: Sumiyoshi Gukei 住吉具慶 (1631-1705)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, late 17th-early 18th century
Ink and color on silk, ivory jiku.
H x W (image): 90.6 x 32.5 cm (35 11/16 x 12 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Willard Clark in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

courtier, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono, moon, poems, spring, Tales of Ise, WWII-era provenance

To 1997
Mr. and Mrs. Willard Clark, Hanford, CA, to 1997

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Mr. and Mrs. Willard Clark in 1997

Previous Owner(s)

Mr. and Mrs. Willard Clark


Is not the moon the same?
The spring
The spring of old?
Only this body of mine
Is the same body. . . .

The poem written in the elegant style of Japanese imperial court calligraphers expresses the sentiments of the courtier who gazes longingly from the veranda. This painting illustrates section four of Tales of Ise (Ise monogatari), in which an unnamed courtier traditionally identified with the poet and romantic hero Ariwara no Narihira (825-880) returns to the site of a love affair that had ended abruptly the previous year when the lady had moved away without a word. Transience and melancholy are eloquently expressed through the setting: a chilly night just at the transition from winter to spring, when the plum trees are in bloom. Sumiyoshi Gukei belonged to a family of painters who had served the imperial court. His father, Sumiyoshi Hiromichi (Jokei), whose handscroll painting, The Tale of the Uji Bridge Lady, had moved from the imperial capital of Kyoto to Edo to serve the Tokugawa shoguns.

Translation from Helen Craig McCullough, Tales of Ise (Stanford University Press, 1968)

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 306-307.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum