The Tosa school, which originated in Kyoto during the Muromachi period (1392–1573), traditionally painted for the imperial family and nobility. They took as their subjects classical Japanese literature, such as the Tale of Genji and the Tales of Ise. Painting on a variety of formats, but most commonly associated with the narrative handscroll, they developed a refined painting style called yamato-e (pictures of Yamato—an old-fashioned name for Japan). As its name suggests, yamato-e is considered a purely Japanese painting style, in which paint is applied in opaque layers with strong outlines. Faces, which are indicated by abbreviated strokes, are not individualized.
The artwork above depicts popular episodes from The Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari), a famous eleventh-century novel by Lady Murasaki. Its fifty-four chapters tell a romantic and eventful story about the charming Prince Hikaru Genji. The novel was a favorite among court nobles, and soon inspired artists to depict its famous scenes on handscrolls, album leaves, and screens.