Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > East Asian Collections > 25. Utagawa Kuniyoshi

25.  Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861).  Yume no ukihashi (Bridge of dreams). n.p.: Iseya Ichibei, 1845-46. Print # 54. Japanese paper, oban (approx. 38 x 25.5 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Circa 1845-46, Utagawa Kuniyoshi produced a series of prints with allusions to the Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji). The series was entitled Genji kumo ukiyo-e awase (A comparison of prints of the floating world with the cloudy chapters of Genji), and consisted of sixty designs, one for each of the fifty-four chapters of the Genji Monogatari , and six supplemental designs. The series is unusual in that the scenes depicted in the main body of the print have nothing to do with the actual content of the corresponding Genj chapters, but instead depict famous Kabuki actors. Only in the scroll-like inset at the top of each print a poem and minor symbolic representation of the theme of the relevant chapter refer to the novel. It is thought that this approach was used to circumvent the 1842 Tenpō reform laws forbidding the depiction of actors and prostitutes in works of art. Like the woodblock-printed volume shown elsewhere in this exhibition, the print here displayed corresponds to the so-called "Bridge of dreams" chapter of the novel.

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