Scroll (290 x 4780 mm.), with gold paper inner endpaper at front, wooden core roller. [Japan]: n.d., but late Edo or early Meiji.
A fine example of an erotic scroll, anonymously painted as usual but with great skill. The scroll contains 12 erotic scenes painted on silk (the well-known “set of 12“ format) of men and women engaged in various sexual activities. As in many shunga hand scrolls, the paintings feature a sequence of lovemaking positions in no apparent order.
The figures are drawn to express a fluidity of movement, passion, and pleasure. The accomplished artist has used delicate shading to heighten the scenes. The kimono are richly decorated. In several scenes, the women’s pleasure is expressed by curled toes and fingers. The paintings are richly detailed with metallic pigments, elaborately rendered hairstyles, and renderings of luxurious kimono fabrics.
Erotic paintings in Japan have a long tradition, established well before the Edo period. “Many aspects regarding the production of early paintings with sexual content — when, where and by whom they were made, how they were appreciated — are still obscure…There was apparently a radical change in the form of erotic hand scrolls from around 1600 onwards when paintings with a sequence of twelve erotic scenes became common…Each scene in hand scrolls of this type does not normally show any clear relationship with the adjacent scenes, nor is there usually any development, other than presenting a variety of couplings and sexual techniques. Each group of copulating figures exists within its own enclosed space, set against a plain or simply decorated background, as if functioning as an example of a possible sexual position…
“Shunga painting remained an important genre in terms of both quality and quantity right up until the modern era, and should no longer be excluded from the study of Japanese art and the broader study of the humanities…The concept of twelve in shunga had more to do with a general sense of completeness, a full cycle.”–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. 62 & 70-72.
In fine condition. The extreme edges of each silk panel are slightly spotted due to the glue used.
Item ID: 8670