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).
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.
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.
Fig.1. ‘Young love couple in the uneasy exploration phase before love-making‘ from the book series ‘Enshoku Tamatsubaki (c.1760)’ by Harunobu
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!).‘
Fig.3. ‘A young female points at two aroused street dogs while her older lover has similar intentions.’
Fig.4. ‘A mature couple are observing the intimate activities of younger couple on the veranda. Their silhouettes give an extra dimension.‘
Fig.5. ‘Two separate scenes with completely nude intimate couples making love in the bathhouse (l) and behind a screen (r) depicting a wave‘
Fig.6. ‘A clearly disappointed young woman turned her back on the intimacy of the couple in the other room‘
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.‘
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)‘
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.‘
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)’
Fig.11. ‘A calligraphy teacher is penetrating his young student from the rear‘
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.‘
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.‘
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 ‘
Fig.15. ‘Two unrelated scenes with two intimate couples ‘
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‘
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?“
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.’
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 ‘
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).‘
Fig.21. ‘An impulsive encounter with the sensual couple using their clothing as bedding.‘
Fig.22. ‘Closing illustration with a geisha and customer sharing a bowl of sake.‘
Fig.23. ‘Closed booklets‘
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