- Museum number
- Object: Kagetsujō 華月帖 (Kagetsu’s Album)
Illustrated book, folding album, shunga. Woodblock-printed with slight colour. By painters of Kyoto and Osaka, particularly artists of the Maruyama-Shijo and related schools.
- Production date
Height: 27.80 centimetres (covers)
Width: 16 centimetres (covers)
- Curator's comments
This shunga album of shadow pictures, including copies of old paintings, was devised by Kireiken – a flower-arranging master who lived in Osaka. It has a unique sensibility and uses the shadow effects in a wonderfully delicate manner. In the past it was thought that the album was devised by Kamo no Suetaka, who wrote the preface, and that Kagetsu Kanno Kirei was another of Suetaka’s literary names. Recently, however, it has become clear that Kireiken was a name used by one Ito Genbei, a samurai of the Bungo Taketa fief in Kyushu, who was the seventh-generation proprietor of an official lodging house run by the fief (known as o-kyakuya). He was born in 1778 and in middle age, for reasons unknown, he left Taketa and went to Osaka. In 1823 he succeeded to the headship of the Shogetsudo Koryu school of flower arrangement, taking the name Kireiken Toen III. Kireiken enjoyed many close links with leading literati of the day: in his native Taketa, with Hirose Tanso (1782–1856), Hirose Kyokuso (1807–63) and the painter Tanomura Chikuden (1777–1835); in Kyoto, with Kamo no Suetaka, Kagawa Kageki (1768–1843) and Rai San’yo (1780–1832); and in Nagasaki, with visiting scholars from China such as Jiang Jiapu (Jiang Taijiao, dates unknown; J. Ko Kaho) and Jiang Yunge (Jian Xinyi, b. 1780?; J. Ko Unkaku). From these last he learned the Chinese lute known as the gekkin (C. yueqin) and compiled an anthology of gekkin music in Japan. The present album was intended by Kireiken to be distributed by him as a gift among the various luminaries of the world of kyoka (‘crazy verse’) in Edo, formerly led by Ota Nanpo (1749–1823), when the occasion arose for him to visit that city. For this purpose he mobilized all the leading Kyoto artists of the day to provide the illustrations. A total of thirteen artists contributed, representing the Tosa, Kano, Maruyama-Shijo, Gan (Kishi), Mori and Yamato Revival schools. Later printings have a key at the back of the book which identifies the artists from the sobriquet used on each of the pictures. The printing blocks for this album survived into the Meiji era (1868–1912) and later printings are common. The British Museum copy is a delicate, early printing. The very earliest printing – a unique copy is in the Nakano Mitsutoshi collection – has Kireiken’s actual vermilion seal impressed in nine places within the text and the printed inscription ‘Block-carver Morigaki Isaburo - ’ at the end of the book, otherwise not found in surviving copies. [NMi]
This is the most important printed erotic illustrated book by painters of Kyoto and Osaka, particularly artists of the Maruyama-Shijō and related schools. It is a work of great subtlety, in terms both of the delicacy and reticence of the scenes of lovemaking -- depicted as discrete ‘shadow pictures’ -- and also of the technique, carefully gradated woodblock prints done entirely in shades of ink.
Certain of the pictures are said to be copied from old paintings secretly preserved in the collections of persons of high rank. Some printings of the book include a list of artist names at the back, which reveals the true identities of those who in the pictures only sign their images with secret nom-de-plumes (the list is not present in this copy). They turn out to be most of the leading painters of the various Kyoto schools, both traditional such as Kano and Tosa, and modern, such as Maruyama, Shijo and Yamato Revival. This hiding of identities may be because of a general reluctance in Kyoto to have erotic works associated with one’s name; or else it may reflect prevailing conditions of censorship in the 1830s.
The very earliest printing, represented by the unique copy in the Nakano Mitsutoshi collection, includes at the end of the list of artists the name of the block carver, one Morigaki Isaburo 森垣伊三郎 (not apparently included in any other copy known to Prof. Nakano). This earliest printing has a title slip printed on cloth, which is positioned in the centre of the cover. Prof. Nakano’s commentary (see below) is the most detailed to date and includes the following information.
The book was compiled by one Itō Genbei, of a family who held the hereditary position as the manager of the official lodgings for guests visiting the Bungo Taketa fief. Using the name Kireiken Toen, he was active as a flower master of the Shōgetsudō lineage in Kyoto and acquaintance of many famous men of letters of western Japan -- such as Tanomura Chikuden, Shinozaki Shōchiku, Rai San’yō and Kamo no Suetaka (who contributed the preface to the present volume). The title Kagetsujo, literally ‘Album of Flowers and Moon’, derives from another pen-name, Kagetsukin-ō, used by Kireiken. According to his own postscript, the occasion for compiling the volume was so that Kireiken could take it as a gift on a trip he was to undertake to Edo. No further details of this trip are known.
This copy, without the artist list, is apparently an early edition, confirmed by Prof. Nakano when he examined it (22 October 2011). There is great subtlety and refinement to the printing; the blocks appear relatively unworn; the printed ‘seals’ of each artist are done in a rich red colour that seems superior to the orange-red seen on the copies which appear to be later in date. (T. Clark, 7/2012)
Key to Kagetsujo (1836) artists:
The most detailed commentary on the work and its cultural background is found in Nakano Mitsutoshi, ‘Kirei wakudeki’, in Edo kyōsha den, Tokyo, 2007, pp. 439-493; esp. pp. 478-484. The copy illustrated is in Prof. Nakano’s own collection.
Jack Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, London, Sotheby’s, 1987, vol. 2, pp. 912-3, fig. 609 (this copy, ex-Biedermann; not Ravicz Collection as stated)
A full description and facsimile of the volume is given in Richard Lane, ‘Kagetsu-jō – A Shijō shunga album’, (Kikan) Ukiyo-e 65, Spring 1976, between pp. 88 and 125.
Dorit Marhenke & Ekkehard May, Shunga: Erotic Art in Japan, Heidelberg, Edition Braus, 1995, pp. 100-101 (Pulverer Collection, now Freer-Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)
Chris Uhlenbeck and Margarita Winkel, eds., Japanese Erotic Fantasies: Sexual Imagery of the Edo Period, Amsterdam, Hotei Publishing, 2005, no. 87, pp. 214-215 (Pulverer Collection)
Shirakura Yoshihiko, Eiri shunga ehon mokuroku, Tokyo, Heibonsha, 2007, p. 126
There is a later copy in the Ebi Collection, Leeds (with integral list of artists): 25.5 x 16.5 cm (covers)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2013 3 Oct - 2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Japanese Illustrated Book number: JIB.1024