Asagao 朝顔 (Morning Glory) / Furyu yatsushi Genji 風流やつし源氏 (Genji in Modern Dress) - ROM2015_14585_5


Asagao 朝顔 (Morning Glory) / Furyu yatsushi Genji 風流やつし源氏 (Genji in Modern Dress)

Medium:Woodblock print on paper
Geography: Japan
Date: 1791
Period: Edo period
38 x 25 cm
Object number: 926.18.329
Credit Line: Sir Edmund Walker Collection
Not on view
DescriptionThe terms fūryū and yatsushi both suggest a print that dresses a classical theme in modern garb. Here, the title announces the print to be an updating of the twelfth-century court classic, The Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari). The wakashu in the center, then, must be a modern-day Genji, the famous lover. One might think that one of the two standing women in furisode robes with angled hairpins (only one is visible here) might be Princess Asagao (“Morning Glory”), but in the novel Genji never manages to meet with her face-to-face. Asagao was, however, a popular name for prostitutes, which is what the two standing women may be. Princess Asagao is a relatively minor character in the story and Genji’s relationship with her is entirely epistolary. Here too, our young man seems to be in the midst of composing a letter, a morning glory resting on some paper before him. The tall box in the back of the room has “Man’yōshū” written on it. This is a massive compendium of Japanese poetry from the Nara period (646–794). High-ranking prostitutes frequently displayed such boxed sets in their rooms to emphasize their cultural accomplishments, though the archaic Man’yōshū—rather than the more popular Tale of Genji itself—is an odd choice.
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