A Rare Egoyomi Triptych Depicting Tantalizing Bathhouse Games
Marijn Kruijff
2 min

A Rare Egoyomi Triptych Depicting Tantalizing Bathhouse Games

2 min

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

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

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