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Must See: Important Shunga Booklet Set by Suzuki Harunobu

This erotic booklet set entitled ‘Enshoku Tamatsubaki‘ (c.1760) by the great ukiyo-e innovator Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770) shows a lot of designs that were decisive to the artist’s later shunga work and to his pupil Isoda Koryusai (1735-1790).

Ingenious Way

Harunobu uses the long narrow format of the designs in an ingenious way, often connecting the illustrated pages. The booklets are an excellent example of the transition from the primitive black and white illustrations to nishiki-e (brocade picture), the multi-colored printing process that was developed and popularized by Harunobu.

Experimental

In this case, two one-page illustrations (the “risky” pictures) ar color-printed. A lot of the other designs have orange and yellow pigment details. Harunobu was clearly still in the experimental phase here, examining the effect of color.

Harunobu Suzuki: Young love couple in the uneasy exploration phase before love-making

Fig.1. ‘Young love couple in the uneasy exploration phase before love-making‘ from the book series ‘Enshoku Tamatsubaki (c.1760)’ by Harunobu

Harunobu Suzuki: A young (aroused) servant is asking an older fully nude male making love to a geisha for the box besides him.

Fig.2. ‘A young (aroused) servant is asking an older fully nude male making love to a geisha for the box besides him. The box probably contains lubricant to please herself (look for her exposed private parts!).

Harunobu Suzuki: A young female points at two aroused street dogs while her older lover has similar intentions

Fig.3. ‘A young female points at two aroused street dogs while her older lover has similar intentions.’

Harunobu Suzuki: A mature couple are observing the intimate activities of younger couple on the veranda. Their silhouettes give an extra dimension

Fig.4. ‘A mature couple are observing the intimate activities of younger couple on the veranda. Their silhouettes give an extra dimension.

Harunobu Suzuki: Two separate scenes with completely nude intimate couples making love in the bathhouse and behind a screen depicting a wave

Fig.5. ‘Two separate scenes with completely nude intimate couples making love in the bathhouse (l) and behind a screen (r) depicting a wave

Harunobu Suzuki: A clearly disappointed young woman turned her back on the intimacy of the couple in the other room'

Fig.6. ‘A clearly disappointed young woman turned her back on the intimacy of the couple in the other room

A married couple are making love while their toddler sleeps underneath an oval-shaped mosquito-net

Fig.7. ‘A reluctant mother is trying to ward off her aroused husband. She is afraid of waking up her toddler sleeping underneath an oval-shaped mosquito-net.

Harunobu Suzuki: A man prepares for cunnilingus by pushing the legs of his female lover aside . A naked married couple are kissing each other while making love sideways

Fig.8. ‘A man prepares for cunnilingus by pushing the legs of his female lover aside (l). A naked married couple are kissing each other while making love sideways (r)

Harunobu Suzuki: A courtesan and client have just completed their smoking session and proceeded to physical intimacy. On the right a couple prepare for penetration

Fig.9. ‘A courtesan and client have just completed their smoking session and proceeded to physical intimacy. On the right a couple prepare for penetration.

Harunobu Suzuki: An aroused male sitting outside on the veranda has found a small hole to peek through. He is observing the intimacies in the bedroom inside the house

Fig.10. ‘An aroused male sitting outside on the veranda has found a small hole to peek through. He is observing the intimacies in the bedroom inside the house (r)’

Harunobu Suzuki: A calligraphy teacher is penetrating his young student from the rear

Fig.11. ‘A calligraphy teacher is penetrating his young student from the rear

Harunobu Suzuki: A younger and older monk enjoy the sensual attention of two attractive geisha.

Fig.12. ‘A younger (l) and older monk (r) enjoy the sensual attention of two attractive geisha. The younger one uses a pestle to extinguish the incense burner besides them. His older companion uses his hand to stimulate the private parts of the ecstatic geisha besides him. His Buddhist prayer beads lie behind the pillow.

Harunobu Suzuki: Seated at the kotatsu (covered brazier) on a winter's evening, two couples are involved in intimate activities, each on their own side.

Fig.13. ‘Seated at the kotatsu (covered brazier) on a winter’s evening, two couples are involved in intimate activities, each on their own side.

Harunobu Suzuki: A boatsman has taken off his shoes and jumped out of the boat to fasten it.

Fig.14. ‘A boatsman has taken off his shoes and jumped out of the boat to fasten it. Inside the pleasure boat under the canopy a geisha and a client have not yet completed their intimate session ‘

Harunobu Suzuki: Two unrelated scenes with two intimate couples

Fig.15. ‘Two unrelated scenes with two intimate couples

Harunobu Suzuki: Two courtesans animating their clients. The couples are separated by a screen depicting a foo dog (shishi) who appears to be looking at the couple on the right

Fig.16. ‘Two courtesans animating their clients. The couples are separated by a screen depicting a foo dog (shishi) who appears to be looking at the couple on the right

Intriguing scene with on the right page an intimate gay encounter between a mature male and a younger lover. On the left we can see a young samurai watching them. His eyes are tense and he firmly holds on to the tsuka (handle) of his sword. Is he a jealous lover? by Harunobu Suzuki

Fig.17. ‘Intriguing scene with on the right page an intimate gay encounter between a mature male and a younger lover. On the left we can see a young samurai watching them. His eyes are tense and he firmly holds on to the tsuka (handle) of his sword. Is he a jealous lover?

The right image portrays a courtesan sitting on top of a client. The man's kimono is decorated by Harunobu Suzuki

Fig.18. ‘The right image portrays a courtesan sitting on top of a client. The man’s kimono is decorated with Buddhism Manji motifs. On the far left another courtesan takes a quick nap.’

Harunobu: Two various intimate scenes with geisha and their clients. The recurring symbol on the sliding door behind the couple in the right image refers to a specific chapter of the classical Japanese novel the Tale of Genji 

Fig.19. ‘Two various intimate scenes with geisha and their clients. The recurring symbol on the sliding door behind the couple in the right image refers to a specific chapter of the classical Japanese novel the Tale of Genji 

Harunobu: A woman's thoughts have drifted and now she is dreaming of an erotic scene (most probably about herself and her older lover). The wall in the background is decorated with Buddhism Manji motifs

Fig.20. ‘A woman’s thoughts have drifted and now she is dreaming of an erotic scene (most probably about herself and her older lover). The wall in the background is decorated with Buddhism Manji motifs (see also Fig.18).

Harunobu: An impulsive encounter with the sensual couple using their clothing as bedding.

Fig.21. ‘An impulsive encounter with the sensual couple using their clothing as bedding.

Closing illustration with a geisha and customer sharing a bowl of sake. by Harunobu

Fig.22. ‘Closing illustration with a geisha and customer sharing a bowl of sake.

Harunobu Suzuki: two shunga booklets

Fig.23. ‘Closed booklets

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What is your favorite design in the above booklets? Leave your comment in the comment box below…!!

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