Maneemon in the Silkworm Room Observing a Superstitious Girl
The following print shows us a naked patriarch who observes a man pushing his female lover to the ground and spreading her legs in order to have a quickie in the silk room of a farmhouse. The miniature man, Maneemon* (the recurring figure in this Harunobu series) crawls towards the couple to get a better view.
Most of the silk production in Japan at the time took place in special rooms. Silkworm eggs were kept in a tray in a cool place during winter and brought our around May when fresh mulberry leaves were in abundance. As soon as they had developed into larvae, they were laid on a bed of mulberry leaves, which were regularly replenished.
‘In the silkworm room‘ (c.1770) from the series ‘The Fashionable Horny Maneemon (Furyu enshoku Mane’emon)‘ by Suzuki Harunobu
Once fully mature, the larvae spun their cocoons, which they attached to the twigs or straw that had been placed in the trays. The cocoons were placed in boiling water shortly thereafter to kill the chrysalis, and the silk was unwound as one continuous thread, sometimes measuring up to 1300 m in length. The best cocoons were kept apart for breeding.
Silk production was extremely time-consuming and was mostly taken care of by the farmer’s wife, who was at home anyway. Unfortunately, although the farmers produced it, they were not allowed to use the silk themselves.
The woman in this design says, ‘If we do it in front of the silkworms, they will be corrupted.’
‘Japanese Erotic Prints: Shunga by Harunobu & Koryusai‘ by Inge Klompmakers
‘Erotic Japonisme, the Influence of Japanese Sexual Imagery on Western Art‘ by Ricard Bru
*Maneemon is the bean-sized man who travels around the provinces eager to study the “way of love.”
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