Collection online

Sode no maki 袖の巻 (Handscroll for the Sleeve)

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (series)

    • Sode no maki 袖の巻 (Handscroll for the Sleeve)
  • Description

    Woodblock print, shunga. Lovers with roll of tissue. The man and woman kiss passionately, with eyes closed. The pair are naked, save for her single red undergarment. There is nothing in the background to give a clue as to their status or relationship.

  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1785 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 126 millimetres (Image)
    • Width: 678 millimetres (Image)
    • Height: 306 millimetres (Mount)
    • Width: 813 millimetres (Mount)
  • Curator's comments

    This is the most celebrated shunga work by Torii Kiyonaga. Within the strikingly long, horizontal format, very narrow in height, are presented eleven scenes of sexual coupling and in the twelfth, close-ups of three female sex organs within round windows. The title Handscroll for the Sleeve was taken by shunga scholar Hayashi Yoshikazu from a phrase in the printed preface: ‘The charms of a beautiful woman... captured in a handscroll for the sleeve’ The figures of the couples are cropped in an extraordinary and memorable way within the unusually long, narrow format, and the undulating lines that express their bodies, as well as the richness and variety of their expressions are truly beautiful. This is certainly one of the great masterpieces within the shunga tradition. A rich variety of types is portrayed, and in many different bodily poses: a young couple dressed in the courtly costumes of Ushiwakamaru (the future warrior hero Yoshitsune) and Princess Jo- ruri; a maid from a warrior mansion with her distinctive ‘horn-hiding’ (tsuno-kakushi) head-cloth; a young female firewood-seller, from the village of Ohara near Kyoto, and her lover using her bundle of sticks as a pillow (see Clark et al 2013, p. 156, fig. 2); a middle-aged couple relaxing in a pleasurable drowse after sex; young adolescents who have forgotten all about their calligraphy practice; a woman wearing a special white narrow sash to support her pregnant stomach, and so on. There are quite a few examples of shunga being made in the formats of small handscrolls and books. In fact, the special term ‘sleeve treasure’ (shu-chin) was used to describe small things that were slipped inside the breast or hanging sleeve of a traditional kosode kimono. No doubt people enjoyed them in this way, carrying them around, or hiding them in the small drawer on the side of a pillow-stand in the bedroom. [YY]


  • Bibliography

    • Clark et al 2013 Cat. 45 bibliographic details
    • Buckland 2010 p. 100-101 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2010 19 Oct - 2011 14 Feb, London, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'
    2013 3 Oct - 2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900

  • Subjects

  • Department


  • Registration number



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: JCF8628

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help