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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

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
 Title or Description December, The Ten Chapters from Uji
 十二月 浮舟宇治十帖内 Ukifune Ujijūjō no uchi
 Series Twelve Months of the Floating World
 浮世十二ヶ月 Ukiyo Jūnikagetsu
 Artist Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920)
月耕 Gekkō
 Seal 尾形 Ogata (see above)
 Publication Date 1890 (Meiji 23) 明治廿三 印刷 出版
Yokoyama Ryohachi 横山良八 [Marks: pub. ref. 623; seal not shown]

 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - soiling; vertical center fold
 Genre ukiyo-e 
 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)
 Collections This Print
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 2016.958
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