That 1,300-page romantic epic has captivated readers for 1,000 years, inspiring an entire subgenre of paintings.
The Met’s new exhibition, “ ‘The Tale of Genji’: A Japanese Classic Illuminated,” gathers 120 works — all of the issues from development and furnishings to card video video games and erotica — that pay homage to Murasaki Shikibu’s 11th-century masterpiece.
“Only the Bible can rival it, in terms of inspiring all these pictorial motifs in so many different formats,” curator Melissa McCormick tells The Post.
The novel services spherical Genji, a prince who loses his crown, and his amorous adventures as he tries to reclaim it. Readers over the years have been entranced by the story’s detailed descriptions of court docket docket life — Murasaki was a lady-in-waiting inside the empress’ court docket docket — along with its poetry and sophisticated female characters.
“They are so fleshed out, and they talk to each other about things other than Genji,” McCormick says. “It really passes the Bechdel test.”
She says that Murasaki’s contemporaries devoted themselves to illustrating and distributing the novel amongst their mates. They even whispered that she was divinely inspired, arising with “Genji” after seeing the moon’s glittering reflection on the water exterior a Buddhist temple.
Those lucky adequate to have an illustrated mannequin of “Genji” dealt with it as an objet d’paintings. On present proper right here is the lacquered-wood-and-gold “book cabinet,” designed significantly to hold the tome’s 54 chapters.
Others paid homage to the story in further creative strategies: Artists painted, embroidered or etched their favorite scenes onto large folding screens, silk kimonos and even dishware. The 19th century abounded with “Genji” parodies, and erotica with eye-popping illustrations.
The exhibit closes with a variety of work from Yamato Waki’s “The Tale of Genji: Dreams at Dawn,” an opulent assortment of manga variations of the story that ran for some 15 years. (An English mannequin, amassing all the volumes, will be launched this 12 months.)
“I think because the work covers so much ground, people keep finding new ways to look at it,” says McCormick. “It’s really a testament to how much fiction can do.”
“ ‘The Tale of Genji’: A Japanese Classic Illuminated,” by the use of June 16 on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave.; MetMuseum.org.