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Shigure monogatari, “The shower”

Shigure monogatari, “The shower”

illuminated manuscript, 3 volumes

Early 17th century
Ink on paper
H : 30cm L : 22 cm
M.C. 4740

There are close ties between literature and illustration in Japan (see Literature and images in Japan, Jacqueline Pigeot, in Le grand Atlas des littératures, Encyclopedia Universalis, 1990). The increasing popularity of narrative prose, beginning in the 10th century, was linked to images. Novels, or monogatari, were read aloud to audiences, who followed the events through illustrations. Beginning in the late 12th century and until the 16th century, painted rolls were very popular. They were replaced by paperbound booklets at the end of the Muromachi Period (15th – 16th century). Nara-e-hon, or “Nara illustrated books”, are illuminated manuscripts, a style in vogue through the second half of the 18th century. These precious works were decorated with yamato-e style paintings (“Japanese [style] painting”). This very decorative style distinguishes itself from Chinese painting, and was developed during the Heian Era. The texts were generally works from the medieval era, such as the Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), or ancient times. Text and illustrations merged, juxtaposed, as here they are interwoven within the same page. During the 17th century, booklets, where text and images were separated, were diffused and became popular for a short time: in 1730, printed books definitively replaced illustrated manuscripts.

The Shigure monogatari, first known under the title Amayadori, dates back to the late 16th century, and tells the story of the impossible love between two young people who meet at the Kiyomizu Temple, in Kyōto, during a shower. The first printed edition of the work appeared in 1661, under the title Shigure no en.

The text of the Cernuschi Museum’s manuscript, incompletely copied, is written in calligraphy on paper decorated with patterns and stencilled colours and illustrated with 12 illuminations, two of which – the first and the last – are double page. The large format work, sumptuously decorated and richly adorned with gilding, can be classified as a luxurious work, as compared to the smaller copies, with an oblong format and more rough craftsmanship, which are found more frequently.

Previously considered to be from the Genroku era (1688 – 1711), this Nara-e hon probably dates back to the first half of the 17th century, especially because of the paper quality and original format. Formats tended to be standardised by the 18th century.

Collection : Japanese graphic arts
Mode d'acquisition : Bequest of Henri Cernuschi, 1896.

Biblio. : «Trésors des musées de la Ville de Paris », Paris, Hôtel de Ville, 1980, n°64 ; Maucuer, 1998, n°121, p.136.

Shigure Monogatari (« L’Ondée »)
© Musée Cernuschi