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Rural Genji
Inaka genji

Rural Genji

Click here for detail of clouds around moon

Colour print from woodblocks, with blind embossing (karazuri), textile printing (nunomezuri) and borderless shading (atenashi bokashi); printed with extra bokashi clouds around moon.
Ôban format vertical diptych.
Block-cutter: Negishi Chokuzan.
Publisher: Matsui Eikichi. 20/08/1885
Keyes 474

Click for larger view [new window]

The title comes from Ryutei Tanehiko's serial novel Nise murasaki inaka genji (False Murasaki and a Rural Genji) of 1829-42, which reset the 11th-century classic Tale of Genji in the 15th century. This scene comes from chapter 4.

Click here for other prints illustrating this chapter

The main protagonist Ashikaga Mitsuuji and his lover Tasogare escape the watch of her mother, Shinonome, and flee to spend the night together in an old temple. Yoshitoshi evokes both the mood and specific descriptive elements in the novel: the blind that Mitsuuji wraps round them to stop his sword shining in the moonlight; their wariness as they look out for Shinonome and her henchmen; the brilliant moon and the banks of cloud; the desolate moor with its tangle of plume-grass and miscanthus; and the sudden shower of rain before they glimpse the flickering temple light in the distance. The atmosphere of the landscape is heightened by the subtle printing, especially the effect of the clouds around the bird and moon, which varies in each impression.

The popularity of Tanehiko's novel inspired something of a Genji craze, with associated hair-fashions and product names, and dramatised versions of the book. Tanehiko's novel was originally illustrated by Kunisada and it inspired many prints by other artists including Kuniyoshi and various of Kunisada's pupils.

Click here for a Rural Genji print by Kunisada

Purchased from the Rylands Fund with a contribution from the National Art Collections Fund, 2003