Golden Fantasies: Japanese Screens from New York Collections
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Scenes from the Tales of Ise
Edo period (1615–1868), 17th century
Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color, and gold on paper
The Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation
Cat. no. 1

The Tales of Ise is a compilation of more than one hundred brief, lyrical episodes, written in the late ninth to early tenth centuries. The climax of each episode is one or more 31-syllable poem that encapsulates the mood. These poems are characterized by an appreciation of nature’s beauty and a melancholy awareness of the transience of life.

These screens present seventeen episodes, with a poem brushed onto the gold cloud above. There is no set order for “reading” the screens—the eye is supposed to wander at leisure, recognizing the scenes pictured and re-experiencing the emotions they evoke. The early seventeenth century saw a number of printed publications of the Tales of Ise, amid a continuing revival of interest in the forms of classical culture.

The screens will be rotated on April 6, 2004 First rotationSecond rotation