Passionate Love-Making Underneath Transparent Kimono
Marijn Kruijff
1 min

Passionate Mature Couple After a Budhhist Memorial Service

1 min

Shunga (春画) design featuring an older couple makes love near an open veranda (Plate 7). Next to them on the floor sits a sake set on a tray with sakazuki sake cups and a chōshi sake decanter on it.  These details suggest that the scene follows a Budhhist memorial service.


Plate 7 from Utamaro’s ‘Utamakura (Poem of the Pillow)‘ published in 1788

Tensed Toes

The woman’s eyebrows are shaved, indicating a married woman, but her black kimono suggests she has recently been widowed. She covers her face, perhaps in shame, and her emotional state is expressed in her tensed toes. The black of her kimono contrasts with the white of her skin.

To Ease Penetration

The man’s grasps the woman’s leg from behind to ease penetration. Though difficult to see at first glance, through the woman’s translucent silk kimono appears the lusty face of the man. Utamaro made frequent use of printing techniques giving materials a transparent presence, such as in Hari-shigoto.

eiri - models of calligraphy - shunga

Plate 3 from Eiri´s ‘Fumi no kiyogaki (Models of Calligraphy)‘ published in 1801

Real Eroticism

Eiri has effectively contrasted the lovers (Plate 3) by depicting the man’s face as seen through the geisha’s gauze skirt. But for all its artistic efforts, or rather, perhaps because of them, the scene is rather lacking in real eroticism: we are impressed more by the strikingly elegant composition, the dramatic coloring, rather than feeling any great urge to participate in the energetic proceedings.

Mature Widow

There is, however, good reason for Eiri’s predominantly decorative approach to this scene: for, it is one of those which owes the most in conceptualization to Utamaro. But in Utamaro’s original, both figures’ faces are hidden, and the female is a mature widow, with quite different effect; indeed, it takes some effort to figure out exactly what is going on within the tableau.

Click HERE for more shunga (春画) designs from Utamaro’s erotic masterpiece Utamakura !