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December, The Ten Chapters from Uji, from the series Twelve Months of the Floating World

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

December, The Ten Chapters from Uji,

from the series Twelve Months of the Floating World

by Ogata Gekkō, 1890

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IHL Cat. #1813

About This Print


This print from a series of twelve prints titled Twelve Months of the Floating World, said to be Ogata's first complete series of prints, depicts perhaps the most famous scene from The Tale of Genji.  In this scene, from Chapter 51, A Boat Upon the Waters, Prince Niou has carried Ukifune away to a boat on the Uji River and is taking her to the Islet of Oranges, Tachibana-no-kojima.  It is a mid-winter eve, the moon is full, and a heavy snow has fallen.

Written in the eleventh century by Murasaki Shikibu, an aristocratic lady of the late Heian court, the Genji monogatari (The Tale of  Genji) is considered one of the world's great  literary works. It became a source not only for poets but also for artists, who illustrated  scenes from the story in many mediums —  including books, handscrolls, and screens —  from the twelfth century into modern times.  The final  ten chapters are often distinguished from the  rest of the narrative as the "Uji jūjō" (The  Ten Chapters at Uji). 

Excerpt from Chapter 51 - The Scene in the Print
Source: The Tale of Genji 源氏物語 [Genji Monogatari], Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Edward G. Seidensticker, The University of Adelaide, https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/murasaki-shikibu/tale-of-genji/chapter51.html

Without a word, he took Ukifune up in his arms and carried her off. Jijū followed after and Ukon was left to watch the house. Soon they were aboard one of the boats that had seemed so fragile out on the river. As they rowed into the stream, she clung to Niou, frightened as an exile to some hopelessly distant shore. He was delighted. The moon in the early-morning sky shone cloudless upon the waters. They were at the Islet of the Oranges said the boatman, pulling up at a large rock over which ever-greens trailed long branches.

“See,” said Niou, “they are fragile pines, no more, but their green is so rich and deep that it lasts a thousand years.

“A thousand years may pass, it will not waver,
This vow I make in the lee of the Islet of Oranges.” 

What a very strange place to be, thought the girl.

“The colors remain, here on the Islet of Oranges.
But where go I, a boat upon the waters?”

The time was right, and so was the girl, and so was her poem: for him, at least, things could not have been more pleasingly arranged.


Transcription of the cartouches in the upper right

浮世十二ヶ月
十二月 浮舟宇治十帖内  橘の小島は色もかはらじを此浮舟ぞゆくゑしられぬ


Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 #1813
 Title or Description  December, The Ten Chapters from Uji
 十二月 浮舟宇治十帖内 Ukifune Ujijūjō dai
 Series  Twelve Months of the Floating World
 浮世十二ヶ月 Ukiyo Junikagetsu
 Artist  Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920)
 Signature
月耕 Gekkō
 Seal  尾形 Ogata (see above)
 Publication Date  1890 (Meiji 23) 明治廿三 印刷 出版
 Publisher
Yokoyama Ryohachi 横山良八 [Marks: pub. ref. 623; seal not shown]


 Carver
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - soiling; vertical center fold
 Genre  ukiyo-e 
 Miscellaneous  
 Format  horizontal oban
 H x W Paper 
 9 9/16 x 13 1/2 in. (24.3 x 34.3 cm) 
 H x W Image 9 1/8 x  13 1/16 in. (23.2 x 33.2 cm)
 Literature 
 
 Collections This Print

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