The text of Tanehiko’s Genji was illustrated by renowned artist Kunisada. The series achieved enormous commercial success.
In 1838, Kunisada therefore also started designing individual prints imbued with the story of Genji. It was precisely these prints that Van Gogh selected from the stocks of art trader Bing.
Genji was so popular that elements of the story even appeared in completely different genres. For example, Hiroshige brought the print of the 37th station on the Tōkaidō road to life by including a scene from the book.
Back then, the Japanese viewers would have immediately recognised this blurring of the boundaries between the real world and that of literature.