In the mountains the cherry trees were in full bloom, and the farther he went, the lovelier the veils of mist became, until for him, whose rank so restricted travel that all this was new, the landscape became a source of wonder - Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
These beautiful woodblock prints are based on the eleventh century Japanese story 'The Tale of Genji'. Considered by many to be the world's first novel, it tells the story of a nobleman's romantic adventures at the court of the Japanese emperor. The artistic attention given to these scenes reflects the focus on the art of seduction at the time - the most popular form being poetry.
This work consists of a group of episodes from the Tale of Genji transposed onto the eighteenth-century urban backdrop of the Edo period by two of its most illustrious artists from the Utagawa school, Kuniyoshi and Toyokuni III. They are especially remembered as the two last “giants” of the ukiyo-e style of Japanese woodblock printing, later popularised in the West by artists such as Hokusai. Examples of ukiyo-e prints such as this one were central to the formation in the West of a strong interest in the Japanese decorative arts of the 19th century, known as Japonisme.
The prints are bound in a single concertina album, comprising of 12 triptychs and 9 diptychs.