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Katsukawa Shun'ei (attributed to), Ten scenes of lovemaking, a handscroll painting

 

Height: 280.000 mm
Width: 6373.000 mm

Asia JA JP ADD615 (1980.3-25.04)

    Katsukawa Shun'ei (attributed to), Ten scenes of lovemaking, a handscroll painting

    Japan
    Edo period, about AD 1795-1810

    Erotica from the late Edo period

    Almost all Ukiyo-e artists produced substantial quantities of explicitly erotic works. Erotic prints and paintings were usually in the more discreet formats of albums, printed books and handscrolls, such as here. Normally each work consisted of a sequence of twelve scenes, but this scroll only has ten, suggesting that two - perhaps one that included the artists's signature - have been trimmed from the work.

    The firm attribution to Katsukawa Shun'ei (1762-1819) is based on certain key elements of the style, such as the dry brushwork and mannerisms of the facial features, particularly the sensuously long eye-lashes. The similarities with the painting style of Shun'ei's teacher, Shunshō, suggests a date for this scroll not long after Shunshō's death in 1792.

    Shun'ei consciously avoided conventional poses in his shunga ('spring' pictures, that is, erotica) and the incidental detail gives many of them a strongly anecdotal feel. Here, the black-robed man leans back slightly dishevelled among the cushions, drawing on his pipe. The woman dozes across his knee, one hand inside her kimono sleeve pulling it up to slightly cover her face; only her eyebrows and a tightly closed eye are visible. In another scene, a husband surprises his wife as she is washing her hair. Combs and hairpins are left discarded on the floor beside the bowl and their mutual pleasure is evident in their rapt expressions.

    I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)

    T. Clark, Ukiyo-e paintings in the Briti (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

    L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)