Iris and the planks of a bridge allude to a passage from the tenth-century Tales of Ise, a collection of romantic poetic episodes centering on the life of the fashionable courtier Ariwara no Narihira (825-880). Banished to the eastern provinces following his indiscretion with a high-ranking lady of the court, Narihira and his traveling companions stop en route at a place called Yatsuhashi ("Eight-plank Bridge"), so-named because there the river branched into eight channels, each with a bridge.
By the early eleventh century neither the bridge nor the iris survived. The place itself was described by Asai Ryoi in his 1660-61 Tokaido meisho ki (Record of famous places on the Tokaido highway). He mentions seeing the remains of a few bridge piles, but says that there are now rice paddies at this spot. Akizato Rito later described the scene in his Tokaido meisho zue of 1797. He too indicates that there are rice paddies where once there must have been a swamp fed by streams over which a series of bridges would have crossed.
For other screens with scenes from Tales of Ise, see lots 328 and 337.