Ashikaga Silk Steeped in Purple (Ashikga ginu tezome murasaki), by Ryûtei Senka (Baichôrô)

Accession Number

Ashikaga Silk Steeped in Purple (Ashikga ginu tezome murasaki), by Ryûtei Senka (Baichôrô)

Utagawa Kunisada

Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
Illustrated book, with full-color frontispiece

6 15/16 in. x 4 9/16 in. x 1/2 in. ( 17.6 cm x 11.6 cm x 1.2 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Cornelius C. Vermeule

Label copy
Like "Genji as a Country Bumpkin" (1954/1.73), "Ashikaga Silk Steeped in Purple" is a humorous adaptation of an ancient court classic. The text for woodblock-printed books like these is in kana, the Japanese syllabary, with very little use of Chinese characters. They are part of a genre known as kana zôshi (which might be loosely rendered as "paperback novels in the ABCs"). Many of these were novels of enormous length, published in a series over the course of a decade or more. The language, themes, and low price made kana zôshi accessible to a very wide audience in Edo-period Japan. Women, in particular, were eager consumers of serial novels. Tales have been handed down about samurai women of the highest classes neglecting their wifely duties to curl up with a good book.
Kunisada once again treats the full-color frontispiece like a surimono, with rich mineral pigments and a highly decorative effect. The seated figure in the illustration is a woman of very high rank, probably meant to be a princess; to the right stands her lady-in-waiting, carrying a leaf on a fan; and beyond them both lies a koto zither, an instrument of court music.
M. Graybill
"Courtesans, Cross-Dressers, and the Girl Next Door Images of the Feminine in Japanese Popular Prints"
3/9 - 9/1/02

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
color print

Collection Area

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3 Related Resources

Japan Pax Tokugawa 1600-1868
(Part of: Empires and Colonialism)
Modern book arts and illustrations
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
CRC Classroom Resource: Art Books 
(Part of: CRC Classroom Resources)

& Author Notes

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