The second panel from the series ‘The Brocades of the East (Azuma nishiki) published in the early 1810s. Azuma nishiki is a term that implies not only the colorful life of Old Edo but also “The Ukiyo-e Print”.
The design displays a sexual position frequently favored by shunga artists and without a doubt by Japanese lovers in general. The woman, a kakoimono (wealthy man’s concubine) rests her arm and head upon a lacquered box while her daring secret lover mounts her from the rear.
This position permits the lover a maximum degree of freedom of movement, as well as, genital penetration and stimulation well adequate to satisfy the sexual needs of his lover.
The Tipsy Beauty
What is so special about this piece is that the design is partly inspired on Hokusai’s acknowledged masterpiece of ukiyo-e painting (‘The Tipsy Beauty’/ ‘Suiyo Beauty’) which is part of the renowned Ujiie Ukiyo-e Collection. [For stylistic comparison see picture below.]
In the aforementioned painting, the tipsy young woman rests her arms and head upon a similar, black lacquered box. Her mind dazed from the effects of alcohol (a sake-cup is seen in the foreground).
These two young women appear to be, indeed, in very similar states of intoxication: but who, in his or her right mind, would not prefer to reach this state through the immensely greater power of love?
For the wistful intellectual the situation portrayed here may well evoke the melancholy plight of the “kept woman” in a feudalistic society. This was not, however, the intent of the shunga artist here. These passionate figures live only for the present, and their ill-starred future is not a matter that concerns either them, or the artist.
Click HERE to explore the crazy “Sambaso Dancer” piece from this series!
Source: ‘The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga (Vol.7)‘ by Richard Lane