A Rare Erotic Woodblock

Japanese erotic woodblock (268 x 240 x 20 mm.), with four carved images on the obverse side; on the reverse side a further carved image, both sides with kento (a guide for correct registration of the image) & hikitsuke (a draw stop or straight-line guide).

Japan: ca. 1818-30.

An excellent example of a woodblock for the production of prints for a mamehan shunga, small-format erotic prints in the form of cards typically measuring 90 x 120 mm. The production of these shunga thrived in the years 1818-30. Issued in sets of twelve, they were printed in large runs and very popular. About 1500 mamehan shunga are known to have been issued. They were often carried tucked into the breast section of kimono robes.

The obverse side of our woodblock is carved with the basic outline of four images for these cards; the sheet of printed paper, after further color printings, would then be cut into four cards. Three of the images have the main title Hauta no kokoro, with a secondary title for each scene: Shinobu koi (“A Secret Love Affair), Nani shiofu (“What are you doing?” — this is a scene of an older samurai engaging in anal sex with a young samurai) & Wagamono to (“You are mine”). The fourth image, a scene of a woman traveller in a kago being “ravished” or raped by a man), has the secondary title Omoi kon taru (“I can’t help myself; I have to have sex with you”).

The reverse side is one large scene and is quite different. It is not an outline woodcut but one for delicate coloring. Most interestingly, the kento (a guide for accurate registration of the image) & hikitsuke (a draw stop or straight-line guide) are present on both sides of the woodblock.

A 2016 catalogue — Waki Mando korekushon, mamehan shunga — describes the collection of such shunga prints formed by Mitsuru Uragami, a prominent art dealer.

In fine condition.

❧ Clark et al., Shunga. Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art, pp. 34 & 307 touches upon the subject but does not deal with mamehan shunga in this era.

Price: $7,500.00

Item ID: 6756

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