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Battle of the Carriages


Title Battle of the Carriages
Quantity Four-fold screen
Date 2021
Production Canon Inc.

Original Work

Designation Important Cultural Property
Artist/Excavation Site By Kanō Sanraku (1559-1635)
Collection Tokyo National Museum
Medium Color on paper
Date Edo period, 1604 (Keichō 9)
Collection Ref. No. A-10129


This is a four-paneled folding screen. Though the right side depicts an orderly procession of people and horses, the left side shows a chaotic collection of people and ox carriages. This is a scene from The Tale of Genji, an ancient Japanese literary classic. Genji is the impressive man riding the fine black steed on the first panel on the right. The setting is Kamo Shrine in Kyoto. People have gathered here to catch a glimpse of the radiant Prince Genji as he heads to a ceremony at the shrine. On the second panel from the left, three ox carriages block the view of Genji's procession. This is the party of Genji's wife, Aoi-no-ue. The attendants of Aoi-no-ue are violently trying to push aside the other ox carriages already gathered there. One of these is actually the carriage of Genji's lover Lady Rokujo. This struggle for the best viewing spot is actually the struggle between two rivals for Genji's affections. Despite the antiquity of the tale, the painter, Kano Sanraku, has given the characters an appearance more befitting to his own time. Perhaps he was trying to paint a scene that would feel alive and realistic to contemporary viewers.