Today we’ll study the Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806)’s Picture-book: Dew on the Chrysanthmums (1786). It is one of his scarce early shunga books and precedes his acclaimed album Poem of the Pillow (Utamakura), which was issued in 1788. The series intitially appeared in black and white (sumizuri-e) and was later reprinted with additional color blocks.
Settei and Kiyonaga
One of the striking features of this book is how Utamaro has exploited the double-page format by the running on of the composition (see Fig.1. and 2) forming a diptych. The resulting elongation of the composition is reminiscent of the work of Tsukioka Settei (1710-1787) and of Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815)’s The Sleeve Scroll (Sode no maki, 1785).
Below you can find two double-page illustrations that form one design. The two scenes, however, are not related. In this respect they mimic the structure of a handscroll. In Fig.1. the text transfers the interest of both parties in their respective pleasure quarters.
In Fig.2. it is the man who speaks. He praises the quality of the woman’s genitalia and states that she possesses a combination of the three highest ranks of vulvas: the octopus pussy (takobobo) appreciated for its sucking qualities; the trapdoor pussy (todatebobo), appreciated for its ability to hold onto the male member; and the purse pussy (kinchakubobo), praised for its tightness.
Head of the Penis
Fig.3. features a striking scene that almost fills the entire page, with the head of the penis making its appearance into the image in the lower left. This encourages the reader to turn the page for the following scene.
This design (Fig.4.) delineates the theme of the lascivious widow and her secret lover. The very hairy vulva is an indication that it concerns an older woman.
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Source: ‘Japanese Erotic Fantasies – Sexual Imagery of the Edo Period‘ by Chris Uhlenbeck