Scenes from The Tale of Genji on the Mazarin Chest

The scenes on the front panel of the Mazarin Chest refer to specific moments in the classic Japanese novel The Tale of Genji.

To view the full panel and zoom in on details, view the slideshow.

Nowaki (The Typhoon)
Here young women gather in the empress's garden, a reference to chapter 28, Nowaki (The Typhoon):

"Her Majesty was having her page girls go down into the garden to feed dew to the crickets in their cages."

Kochō (Butterflies)
Two boats, one with a bow shaped like a dragon's head and the other shaped like a phoenix's head, are a reference to chapter 24, Kochō (Butterflies):

"Genji had Chinese-style barges made and outfitted, and on the very day they were launched, he summoned people from the Office of Music to perform on them."

Images courtesy of and © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Quotations are from The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Royall Tyler (New York: Penguin Classics, 2001).