Scroll (210 x 3690 mm.), endpapers of gold with silk brocade backing, wooden roller. [Japan: late Edo].
This attractive scroll, executed by a highly accomplished artist, comprises of 12 erotic scenes (the well-known “set of 12“ format), in vivid coloring, depicting a range of sexual activities. As in many shunga handscrolls, the paintings feature a sequence of lovemaking positions in no apparent order. The scenes are finely painted with considerable detail, employing much gold, silver, and other metallic pigments. Throughout, the artist has used a fine brush to achieve great detail of fabric, hair, and faces. All the women have elaborate hairstyles, and the kimono are very luxurious, with many layers of fabric evident. We learn much about the variety of kimono and obi belts of the period.
1. The first scene shows a man, with an erect penis, seated behind a woman, caressing her breasts underneath her kimono. The penis is highlighted with gold dust, and one of the inner layers of her kimono is accentuated with the application of mica. Two maids or servants are seated on the other side of a screen, listening attentively to the couple’s activities.
2. In this scene are travelers: a sword-carrying samurai and a woman, both wearing walking sandals. They are taking a break and having an intimate moment, the man penetrating the woman, who is lying on her back on a roadside bench, her broad-brimmed hat next to her. Behind them is a beautiful landscape of rice paddies. The folds of the woman’s kimono are finely expressed.
3. This is a very beautifully executed scene of a man and woman having sex underneath a collapsed summer mosquito net. The ability of the artist to show the activity of the couple through the netting is remarkable. The woman’s hair is extremely mussed.
4. A naked man and woman are having sex, with another woman observing the activity through a sliding door. The inevitable tissues are nearby. There is a small wormhole.
5. An older court lady and a young man are having an intimate moment, with him masturbating her. The artist has used much mica and gold. The numerous layers of the kimono are revealed. Small wormhole.
6. A prostitute is servicing a client in a brothel. Secretions are dripping from her vagina. The man’s head is concealed in their embrace. The paintings on the sliding doors are very beautiful. Tissues are nearby.
7. A naked man is masturbating a woman on an outside deck. The woman is wearing an open kimono. A harp is nearby.
8. This beautiful scene, situated just outside of a tea ceremony room, shows a man and woman engaged in sex. They are clearly having a secret meeting. Her kimono is extremely luxurious. We see a small part of the next room, with a silver wall.
9. A man and woman are engaged in sex. The man is wearing a business kimono, and in the background are fine pictorial screens.
10. A man and a woman, both naked, are engaged in sex while a “Peeping Thomasina” observes.
11. In this scene, a man and four women are having an orgy. He is masturbating two woman while penetrating another. Her vaginal secretions indicate the fourth woman has already had sex with the man.
12. This scene shows a man and woman in the missionary position. In the background is a most beautiful silk screen painted in gold, depicting two cranes. There is another room with sake containers, suggesting this scene takes place in a brothel.
Fine condition, preserved in a black lacquerware box with gold images and a metal clasp (which has an unidentified family crest in the shape of a Paulownia tree). The outer silk brocade endpapers are a little stained and worn.
❧ Akiko Yano, “Shunga Paintings before the ‘Floating World’” in Timothy Clark et al., eds., Shunga. Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art (British Museum: 2013), pp. -72–”The concept of twelve in shunga had more to do with a general sense of completeness, a full cycle.”.
Item ID: 8539