Scene from The Tales of Ise


Tosa Mitsuyoshi ( Japanese, 1539 - 1613 )

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General Description

This scene represents episode 12 from the anonymous poetic narrative the Tales of Ise (Ise monogatari). In this vignette, a young man abducts a woman and they make their way to the Musashi Plain pursued by servants of the provincial governor, who are prepared to set fire to the plain to expose the hiding lovers. In response, the woman composes the following poem:

"Do not set fire today

To the Musashi Plain,

For my beloved

Is hidden here,

And so am I." [1]

The_Tales of Ise_, a classic of Japanese literature, was completed by the mid-10th century and, from around the 11th century on, treated in a variety of visual formats. In this painting, Tosa Mitsuyoshi has depicted the conventionalized motif of grasses associated with the Musashi Plain, which viewers familiar with the Tales of Ise would have quickly recognized.

[1] Helen Craig McCullough, Tales of Ise: Lyrical Episodes from Tenth-century Japan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968), 78.

Drawn from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 88.

  • Helen Mitsu Nagata, "Images from the Tales of Ise," in Word and Flower (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1989), 54-83.

Fun Facts

  • This painting was originally fusuma sliding doors.

Web Resources

  • World Digital Library
    See the earliest printed edition of the Tales of Ise.

    Learn more about the Tales of Ise in Japanese art.