In the mise-en-scène of the shunga idiom the different seasons could be conveyed for instance by the snow in the background, seasonal clothing, popular festivals, specific flowers, an incense burner would indicate summer and a kotatsu (heated table) winter.
Mosquito-netting emphasized the hottest days of summer. They were often ingeniously incorporated in the composition and were a printer’s “nightmare“ due to the complex printing-process.
The rendering of the mosquito net is a stunning example of nishiki-e printing techniques, in which vertical and horizontal green lines were superimposed in two printing stages to represent the weave of the hempen net, over which a further screen of faint green was applied. The seafloor-like atmosphere of the interior of the mosquito-net is thus superbly conveyed. Carving the weave of the mosquito-net presented such a challenge that most shunga on this theme depict the lovers outside the raised net.
Below you can find some nice examples of this sub-category by Kunisada and some of his colleagues…
Sultry Summer Day
A design completely dominated by the mosquito-net. During a sultry summer day a completely naked couple is making love against the will of their crying infant.
Another image with an intimate couple completely surrounded by a mosquito net.
An intimate couple in the early phase of falling in love during a hot summer day. Look at their longing gazes. Because of the busy pattern of the mosquito-net covering the whole design, the added dialogue has been included in the above margin.
Under the Shelter
A married couple sitting under the shelter of mosquito-netting during a hot summer day. They just made love and the woman is holding a lighted incense stick to look for an invaded mosquito, while her spouse tries to keep cool by using his fan.
This excellent design of the cheating wife has been described by ukiyo-e expert Hayashi Yoshikazu as follows: “…Kunisada also used this in a page of his ‘Viewing Forms in the Four Seasons (Shiki no sugatami)‘, where the viewer sees a woman’s head (and mind) still in bed with her rightful partner, while her genitals — divided by the netting — are outside (illus. 49). Although she is aware of what she does, the status of her sexual act, sectioned off from her head, seems dreamlike, for mental and bodily zones do not match. Pictorially, she is doing nothing wrong.”
Concealed by a fine-meshed mosquito net, a man takes advantage of the young women’s fear of heavy thunder.
An intricate scene depicting a man sleeping off his hangover lying behind a mosquito net while his deceiving wife is making love in the front part of the room. The image is filled with amusing details such as the drool coming from the drunkard’s mouth, his heavily tattooed upper arms and the fallen sake bowl.
Flashes of Lightning
A dynamic and complicated erotic design by the ukiyo-e master Keisai Eisen. The complexity is in the rendering of the different garments, the mosquito-net and the flashes of lightning which has overtaken this couple !
Two intimate couples divided by two separate mosquito nets. Also striking is the unusual view point of the couple on the left in the back depicted in the north/south position.
A woman is reading a shunga book for renewed inspiration while the man is cleaning his genitals. The number of used paper tissues scattered around (one sticking out of her private parts) is an indication of their insatiable incessant appetite and tirelessness. Look for the mosquito sitting on the net on the outside.
An old man kissing his wife, who is holding a bowl and a tea whisk. Another (young) couple makes love in the adjoining room divided by a mosquito-net and Maneemon (Mannekin) sits at ease between the two couples.
The old man points his finger towards the other couple as if to say, ‘ What they can do, we can do too’. In contrast the enormous penises usually depicted in shunga, here the old man’s scrotum is greatly enlarged.
An intimate couple is violently disturbed by a tattooed intruder. The invader is holding the husband underneath the mosquito-net while grabbing the woman’s kimono who’s trying to flee. A famous image from Kunisada’s The Eight Dog Heroes of the Satomi Clan.
Carving of Weave
An elegant erotic design portraying a young couple having intercourse while entwined in a mosquito-net. The carving of weave of the mosquito-net was such a challenge that most shunga on this theme feature the protagonists outside the raised net.
Aroused male (look at his keen facial expression!) examining the genitals of a sleeping female underneath a mosquito-net.
Some of our clients collect bathhouse, or gay, or lesbian, or animals, or close ups scenes..etc. but up to now none of our clients chose the mosquito-net theme as the reference point of their collection while it is such an intriguing one with many perspectives. I would recommend it wholeheartedly to each shunga fan and the above pieces would be a great starting point.
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*An angry deceived man holding a lantern grabs the male lover who is making love to his wife. The woman is ‘hiding’ behind the mosquito-net.
**Picture by Darya