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Nishikawa Sukenobu: The Great Shunga Master of the Kamigata Area

Nishikawa Sukenobu (西川 祐信, 1671-1750) is by many critics considered the greatest ukiyo-e artist coming from the Kamigata region (Kyoto and Osaka). His exceptional mastery in portraying the female figure meant that he was in great demand for shunga illustrations.

Female Beauties

Sukenobu studied painting under Kano Eino of the Kano school in Kyoto; he may also have studied under Tosa Mitsusuke of the Tosa school. His earliest known works are book illustrations that date to 1699. Sukenobu specialized in images of female beauties from various classes in their everyday lives. He also created books of kimono patterns, musha-e (warrior portraits), illustrations for classical novels, erotica (shunga) and paintings.


Sukenobu’s both erotic and non-erotic works expose his stylistic qualities. Into his figures, particularly those of women, he infused a refinement of features, and a sense of grandeur in the expressions and gestures. He influenced all the great ukiyo-e masters of later generations from Harunobu to Utamaro, from Okumura Masanobu to Chobunsai Eishi down to the later phases of the work by Hokusai.

The discussed shunga illustrations below show, among other things, Sukenobu’s great sense of humor…

nishikawa sukenobu

Two intimate scenes with two separate couples‘ (c.1710)

 Nishikawa Sukenobu

A possessive geisha is stamping the glans of her lover to prevent him from cheating. If the ink remains when she next sees him, she will know he has been faithful to her.

 Nishikawa Sukenobu

Detail of genitals

 Nishikawa Sukenobu

Intimate encounter with couple almost completely covered by the blanket‘ (c.1715) by Nishikawa Sukenobu

Two reclusive females using inventive ways to satisfy themselves sexually‘ (c.1711) from the series ‘Enjo iro shigure‘ by Nishikawa Sukenobu

nishikawa sukenobu

Young female playing with herself (l) while looking at a nude intimate couple in the other room‘ (c.1717) from the series ‘Waraku ironando‘ by Nishikawa Sukenobu

Nishikawa Sukenobu

Young girl observing an intimate couple in the other room. She is so aroused that she uses the hilt of a samurai sword to stimulate her private parts

Nishikawa Sukenobu

Nude couple fooling around with a harigata (strap-on dildo)

Nishikawa Sukenobu

Young courtesan picking the stubble of a client‘ (c.1711) from the series ‘Furyo Iro Kaiawase

Nishikawa Sukenobu

A male client wets his fingers before penetrating a young courtesan. A female colleague observes them through the bars of a stairwell. Behind the couple stands the Japanese board game ban-sugoroku ‘ (c.1722) from the series ‘Nure sugata ai some kawa

Click HERE for sensual art by an important contemporary of Sukenobu…!!

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