A Rare Egoyomi Triptych Depicting Tantalizing Bathhouse Games
19 February 2021 

A Rare Egoyomi Triptych Depicting Tantalizing Bathhouse Games

This koban-size egoyomi (calendar print) is quite rare because it is a triptych (Fig.1). It is printed in the surimono style and shows the interior of a bathhouse. This was a commissioned work produced by the prolific artist Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865). The prints are storaged in a beautifully printed wrapper (Fig.2).

Year of the Boar

The door illustrated on the wrapper is inscribed with characters reading ‘Spring, Year of the Boar/ hot spring/ to offer as a present.’

bathhouse triptych print

Fig.1. ‘Games Inside a Bathhouse‘ (Year of the Boar 1827) by Utagawa Kunisada (Former Ferdinand Bertholet collection)

Display of Nudity

The text to the left panel tells us that this hot springs is in Hakone and that the game played by the women is called ‘passing the hand towel’, an euphemism for the passing around’ of prostitutes. In the 1850s, non-shunga oban-size bath triptychs were extremely popular. They all had a similar display of nudity.

bathhouse triptych kunisada

Fig.2. Wrapper

Two Clad Geisha

Concealed in the shop curtain (noren) behind the two clad geisha on the left are the numbers of the ‘long’ (thirty-day) months, which have been printed with a brass pigment. These ‘long’ months do not correspond to any specific year. The print is signed with another variant of the standard pseudonym used by Kunisada, here read as ‘Fukiyo Matabei.’

bathhouse triptych detail

Fig.3. Detail triptych

bathhouse shunga kunisada detail

Fig.4. Detail center panel

bathhouse shunga kunisada

Fig.5. Detail right panel

Click HERE for more sensual bathhouse scenes as displayed in shunga..!!

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Source: ‘Japanese Erotic Fantasies: Sexual Imagery of the Edo Period‘ by C. Uhlenbeck a.o.

What is you favorite theme within shunga? Leave your reaction in the comment box below…!!

About the author
Marijn is the founder of shungagallery.com. With more than 20 years of experience within the sensual and erotic art of shunga he is an authority in the genre. During this time he served many customers with complementing their art collection.
JB
By

JB

on 19 February 2021

Beautiful piece! Love the detail, especially of the water and how movement is suggested. There's something unique about the woman being lifted above the water by the man on the left and the man she's going to be matched with. Great find!

Marijn
By

Marijn

on 19 February 2021

Thanks JB. You got that right. That's the genius of Kunisada.

John Miller
By

John Miller

on 19 February 2021

I enjoyed examining this it is such a realistic impression that it must have been based on the artists observations of actual events. Brings to mind how we in Europe might imagine a Roman orgy from 2000 years ago. Yet here is similar uninhibited activity from more recent times recorded for us to enjoy. Thanks to you and the artist for sharing. Its a cultural as well as an erotic record.

Marijn
By

Marijn

on 19 February 2021

Thanks for sharing your observations John.. Much appreciated!

CLAUD
By

CLAUD

on 21 February 2021

Well, I "jump in the water". This image made me laugh! with this surprising and harmonious staging, very well observed and convincing down to the last detail. and postures. There is a dynamism (see the distribution of the ladies' hairstyles in a circle with the main character in the center who chooses his surprise partner. what excitement! There is also the envy expressed by the character on the left or on the right, the impatient one who gets rebuffed by the one who is still in action and tells him to wait his turn. I think the set is as important as the characters, it's full of life and I don't see anything obscene? This performance is a beautiful lesson in joie de vivre that contrasts with today's Japan, it seems to me, with its Internet full of unimaginative Porn and its deadly and tasteless Mangas. Translated with www.DeepL.com

Marijn
By

Marijn

on 21 February 2021

Thanks a lot CLAUD. It's wonderful to see that this design evokes such inspiration with you. It is indeed fantastic how the individual characters each form their own story. It would be interesting to be able to see this design through the eyes of the contemporary Japanese viewer.

sins
By

sins

on 23 February 2021

Claud I would like to repeat your remark about the contemporary Japanese spectator's view of the Shunga. Well, it is not an old look! So let's shake off this old taboo... It's not for you, an expert, that I'm going to learn the date of the first Shunga exhibition in Japan... which took place at the Eisi Bunko Museum in Tokyo in.... 2015 He took the bait after ten other Museums had previously refused to do so. Reason: Obscenity? Reducing this art to this is a futile prudishness and shows great ignorance. It took a western impulse to make a decision that affects one's own culture. This exhibition came about only because two years before it was shown at the British Museum...with success. I will try to get the catalog of the exhibition because the curators have provided excellent information and commentary on the context, social reception and the history of the Shunga. Of course the scenes are explicit, but compared to commercial (soulless) pornography they present sexuality as a mutual interaction between equal and committed participants, and as something gloriously deserving of artistic expression. It is as much a matter of situation, imagination and physical impulses. It is an accomplished art and not a sub-genre. My question to you: What is Japanese culture worth today if it can no longer recognize its own artistic values that are part of its identity? internationally recognized... except in their own country... A people of great culture degenerated by economic oppression It is clear: The Japanese today have made their choice: They prefer hard work to pleasure. Would the Shunga have become a provocation for this fanatically hardworking people? Hence a certain Imaginary completely twisted, sickly (Mangas) and incomprehensible to us Westerners. The value of this art is undeniable, and it is difficult to understand why it took so long to organize a special exhibition of these magnificent Japanese works. inside Japan. It's a pleasure - visual, artistic, historical and cultural - to see them together in such a coherent exhibition (Michael Pronko). As far as I'm concerned, I am delighted to find this art on your site hidden behind the clocks and jewels with a charming Blog that forces reflection. and at the opening. Thank you Marijn Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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