Kemari Scene from chapter 34 of The Tale of Genji

Artist: Reizei Tamechika (1823-1864)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1850-1855
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 102.8 × 50.5 cm (40 1/2 × 19 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

cat, concubine, courtier, Edo period (1615 - 1868), game playing, Japan, kakemono, The Tale of Genji, WWII-era provenance

To 2002
Klaus Naumann, Tokyo, to 2002

From 2002
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Klaus Naumann in 2002

Previous Owner(s)

Klaus Naumann


This hanging scroll illustrates one of the most famous scenes from The Tale of Genji. Concealed behind a bamboo screen, Prince Genji's new wife, known as the Third Princess, watches a game of kemari (kickball). Suddenly, her cat rushes out, offering a brief glimpse of the princess to Genji's rival at court, Kashiwagi. They begin an affair that leads to the birth of a son, Kaoru, whom Genji must accept even though he is aware of the illicit liaison.

Reizei Tamechika, who worked as an official court painter in the nineteenth century, created this elegant rendition of the famous scene. His work reflects the refined style and technical perfection that characterized court painting from the Heian period (794-1185)--when The Tale of Genji was written--to Tamechika's era at the end of the Edo period (1615-1868). The artist imbued this frequently rendered scene with lively expression in the movements of the courtiers and a sensitive evocation of the moment within a serene spring setting.

Published References
  • Roger V. Des Forges, John S. Major. The Asian World 600-1500. Medieval and Early Modern World New York. p. 75.
  • John T. Carpenter, Melissa McCormick. The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated. Exh. cat. New York, New York, 2019. p. 207, fig. 65.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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