When ukiyo-e artists produced complete shunga print sets (mainly twelve) in the larger oban-size, frequently on the sheets (often the first) concerned a so-called abuna-e (risqué pictures). These more discreet kind of designs were titillating and suggestive but not explicit.
Eizan and Eisen
Two artists who excelled in this sub-genre were Kikugawa Eizan (1767-1867) and his talented pupil Keisai Eisen (1790-1848), They produced numerous abuna-e, sometimes even entire sets of twelve. Their designs are characterized by their emphasis on the clothing, such as the kimono and garment patterns.
Lost in a Sea
An oiran (high-class courtesan) and her secret lover are reading a passage in a love letter. As you can see, Eisen avoids the explicit illustration of genitalia and focuses on the fluent and ornate treatment of the kimono and the dreamy expressions of the lovers before sex. The figures are almost lost in a sea of contrasting textile patterns.
Click HERE for another striking abuna-e by Eisen including the tense dialogue between a client and a courtesan…!!!