Detail of Portrait-Icon of Murasaki Shikibu. Painted by Tosa Mitsuoki (1617-1691). Edo period (1615-1868), 17th century. Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk. On loan from Ishiyamadera Temple, Shiga Prefecture.
A major international loan exhibition focusing on the artistic tradition inspired by Japan’s most celebrated work of literature will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning March 5, 2019. Bringing together more than 120 works of art from 32 public and private collections in Japan and the United States—including National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, most of which have never left Japan—The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated will explore the tale’s continuing influence on Japanese art since it was written around the year 1000 by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu (ca. 978–ca. 1014). Often referred to as the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji has captivated readers for centuries through its sophisticated narrative style, humor and wit, and unforgettable characters, beginning with the “radiant prince” Genji, whose life and loves are the focus of the story.