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Commerical Flyer Featuring the Japanese Colossus of Rhodes

The facetious title of this extraordinary print translates as Dutch Picture of Myriad Lands, or Picture of Myriad Vulvas in the Lands of Women. The impressive figure in the middle of the panel is the Colossus of Rhodes. At the time of the publication of this print several depictions of this figure were known to have been circulating in Japan.

Enormous Erection

But this version is pretty striking with the Colossus depicted as a Japanese man with an enormous erection straddling the mouth of a harbour. The arriving boats vary from a seafaring ship, that sails between his legs, to a smooth pleasure boat hurrying towards the pleasure quarters of the Yoshiwara.

colossus of rhodes

Fig.1. ‘Colossus of Rhodes‘ (c.1823-26) attributed to Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) (Photo by William Pearl)

Prolong Human Life

In his right hand the Japanese Colossus holds a package clearly printed with the characters reading chōmeigan (literally,’long life medicine). In this case, the meaning of chōmeigan is not as a treatment meant to prolong human life, but to keep up the ‘life’ of the man’s erection.

Viagra

In his raised left hand the Colossus balances a lit incense burner – an alternative to the sword in the original version (Fig.2.) – in which a form of aphrodisiac incense most probably burns. This incense was part of the collection of the well-known Yotsumeya, a shop specializing in sex paraphernalia and who most likely published and sold this print as a flyer. The print was folded into eight inside a color-printed wrapper, similar to an intricate advertisement for the Viagra of the day.

Sexual Fruits

The five vignettes that surround the Colossus each portray bizarre erotic parodies of various lands of popular mythology (such as ‘land of the long-legged’ and the ‘land of little people’). The vignette in bottom left probably reads kajin no kuni and shows a phallic tree, the ‘sexual fruits’ of which are enjoyed by women.

collosus of rhodes

Fig.2. Engraving of ‘The Collosus of Rhodes‘ (c.1559-91) by Gerard de Jode (publisher) (Picture from http://utpictura18.univ-montp3.fr)

Game Among Prostitutes

Above it in the top left-hand corner is the senkyo no kuni. The meaning of it is unclear, but the way two men hold up a woman may refer to a popular game among prostitutes and their clients called tō senkyo (‘throwing fans match’). An additional wordplay may be in the word tōsenko, an ointment supposed to stimulate women.

Little People

The central top vignette portrays the kobito no kuni, or ‘country of the little people’, which has been drawn from the Wakan sansai zue (The Sino-Japanese Illustrated Compendium of Three Powers [Heaven, Earth and Humankind], 1713; fig.1).

Land of the Long-Legged

In the top right-hand corner is the nyogo ga kuni, the ‘country of women’ described in the eleventh-century Japanese classic ‘Tale of Genji.’ The last vignette in the bottom right corner portrays the ashinaga no kuni, the ‘land of the long-legged’,  another land well-known from Wakan sanzai zue. The long legs of the figures are in the shape of stilts.

Although the composition is neither dated or signed its style points to the early first half of the 19th century and to the artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861).

Click here for more exciting content on Kuniyoshi…!!!

Sources:

A Flier for the Aphrodisiacal Ointment Chōmeigan’  by Margarita Winkel
What Was Shunga?‘ by Timothy Clark and C. Andrew Gerstle

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