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.