The Chapters “The Picture Competition” and “The Butterflies” from "The Tale of Genji"
This is a set of two folding screens. Vivid scenes are depicted in rich green, blue, and red hues over a golden ground. These are lifted from the world's earliest novel, The Tale of Genji, which was written during the mid-Heian period, around 1000 AD.
The screen to your right features the 'Eawase' chapter of the novel. As the title suggests, it depicts an 'eawase,' or picture-matching contest. During these contests, participants were divided into left and right teams. Each team then presented a painting to be judged. The two boxes facing each other in the large room probably contain the paintings. Dancers clad in unusual costumes are seen on the left-hand screen. This is a scene from the 'Kocho,' or 'Butterflies,' chapter. Four children dance at a spring Buddhist ritual. They wear butterfly wings and hold bright yellow Kerria branches. The two scenes are not connected in the novel, but the screens are linked up here by the brilliant, white cherry blossoms. This bright, luxuriant work is infused with a sense of spring.