TEA CEREMONY MITATE EROTICA.

Printed orihon (accordion) shunga, consisting of 24 woodblock color-printed panels, two of which have flaps to reveal a four-panel sex scene. A total of 17 panels with color-printed woodcuts (one double-page & one four panels wide). Oblong 12mo (70 x 84 mm.), orig. wooden boards, orig. yellow silk spine, orig. purple silk title label (but no title!) on upper cover, preserved in its orig. wooden tray. [Japan]: late 19th century?

A very rare kind of shunga, this is an example of a mitate, an “appropriation of a classical source…which is then used to portray the modern, urban demi-monde.”–C. Andrew Gerstle, “Shunga and Parody” in Timothy Clark et al., eds., Shunga. Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art (British Museum: 2013), pp. 335.

In this shunga, the appropriation is the tea ceremony. The text is full of sexual puns. For example, skill in the tea ceremony really means skill in sexual matters. Tea ceremony tools are actually references to sexual acts and techniques. The finely color-printed frontispiece panel depicts a haboki, the feather brush to arrange the ashes and a natsume, a tea caddy.

The next set of images shows three well-dressed men in a tea ceremony room receiving a tea ceremony performance from an equally distinguished-looking woman. However, when one opens the flaps, a four-panel scene is revealed, where we see the same three men have an orgy with the woman.

Each of the remaining ten images has in the upper outer corner a small image of tea ceremony tools, including kuchikiri (the breaking of the seal on a jar of new tea), koboshi (a vessel to drain the liquid after warming the tea bowl), chausu (a utensil to grind the tea leaves into a powder), chawan (tea bowl), fukusa (silk cloth used for ritual purification), mizusashi (fresh water container), kama (kettle), hishaku (bamboo ladle), chasen (tea whisk), and natsume (tea caddy). These are followed by ten panels of text, explaining the sexual meaning of each tea ceremony implement.

The ten images show various sex acts, all referring to the tea ceremony tools. For example, the kuchikiri image shows a man deflowering a virgin. The text below is a conversation between the two: the woman says, “Please wait. I can’t handle it.” The man replies, “The time has come. Stay still, here it is. How does it feel?” For the kama (which is also slang for homosexuality), we see an old man (a monk?) having anal sex with a young male lover.

The color printing is at a very high level, with the use of embossing and metallic pigments, and twice impressed black ink that gives a rich sheen. The woodblocks are very fresh: there is excellent definition of the strands of hair of both men and women.

We suspect that this rare object was produced for the pleasure of a tea ceremony enthusiast. Wonderfully, the original color-printed wrapper for the orihon volume is preserved. It depicts a shifuku (drawstring pouch) to protect the chaire (tea caddy). The pouch is made of silk brocade, with much gold and silver printing. There are motifs of men and women coupling on the shifuku. The protruding end of the cord and its knot suggest an erect penis and testicles.

In very fine and fresh condition. We do not find this cited in any of the usual reference works.

Price: $4,950.00

Item ID: 8336

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