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21 februari 2020 

5 Classic Scenes From Utamaro's The Laughing Drinker Series

What is perhaps Utamaro’s last erotic book, the three-volume ‘Picture Book: The Laughing Drinker (Ehon warai jogo)‘, was published around 1803. The book opens with a preface signed ‘Maro’s Wife’, in the form of a letter that Utamaro’s (fictitious?) wife addresses to the publisher during her husband’s absence.

Devil of a Wife

She has undertaken the duty of coloring the pictures, and must admit that they are ‘embarrassing pictures for a woman to be working on, but as they say a devil-god has a devil of a wife!’ The images have in fact strong colors and do not only depict scenes of love and delicacy (such as the woman with her eyes closed and her forehead wrinkled while she is strongly possessed by an ugly man).

the laughing drinker

Fig.1. ‘Couple beside the mosquito net‘ (c.1803) from the series ‘Picture Book: The Laughing Drinker (Ehon warai jogo)

This is a scene from the first volume that shows a passionate couple making love beside the mosquito net. As he pulls her to him, she lifts herself on to one hand, her eyes closed in pleasure.

Nymphomaniac

She declares, I’m a born nymphomaniac. I’m an attractive woman and have taken on all kinds of cock, but I’ve never yet been on the receiving end of a whanger like yours. He replies confidently, ‘I suppose your husband’s cock is really different from mine. I never forget a woman who’s taken my cock in. It’s a first-rate piece of equipment, of the very best quality!’

the laughing drinker

Fig.2.

Acrobatic

In volume two we find an energetic – and acrobatic – married couple. The woman explains, ‘That’s the thing about being married – you have the freedom as to as you please. This way you don’t tire so quickly of embracing.’

the laughing drinker

Fig.3.

Intense Absorption

A picture in the same volume presents a couple making love on a hot summer evening beside a mosquito net and lantern. The overwhelming sensual power of their love-making is conveyed by the woman’s head thrown back in ecstasy, her ample breasts and curled toes, the intense absorption of their expressions, and. most crucially, the vivid depiction of the sexual organs and fluids.

She cries,’Ah…ah…wonderful…It’s so good there’s nothing I can compare it to. All the good things of this world seem to have concentrated in one place.’

The Laughing Drinker: close up vagina by Utamaro

Fig.4. ‘Consenting hands (Shochi no te)

Open Vagina

This is the final single-page illustration of the set from volume one (Fig.4). The lovers’ tightly clasped hands represent their romantic commitment to each other, and the woman’s vulva is also drawn as open, ready to receive him.

the laughing drinker: close up female head

Fig.5.

Dreamy

A courtesan’s face determines her rank (Keisei-mono menso ni kurai 0 tsukuru). This is the first single-page illustration from volume three. The young courtesan holds a sleeve up to her face and appears dreamy.

The above pieces will be available for sale at short notice. You can reserve them by contacting us here…!!

Click HERE for some rare original Utamaro shunga for sale….!!

Sources:

Shunga, Erotic Art in Japan‘ by Rosina Buckland
Poem of the Pillow and other Stories by Utamaro, Hokusai,…‘ by Gian Carlo Calza

About the author
Darya

By

Darya

on 21 February 2020

Thank you for amazing pictures! Apparently fig. 4 inspired Toyokuni III to create a similar design.

Marijn

By

Marijn

on 21 February 2020

Thanks again for your sharpness Darya! I have included the design you mention from Kunisada's 'ShunjŨ nikubusuma' (c.1839)

Darya

By

Darya

on 17 March 2020

Btw fig. 3 is similar to the design I mentioned in comments to the post about foreigners, so we can compare these pictures. The style of pieces is a bit different (or I should say 'the approach'). Depiction of sex with a Japanese man is more life-like: hairy armpits of a woman, stray hair on her neck... Pubic hair of both partners seems to be more realistic too and private parts look not so decorative but close to real ones. The difference between the Japanese man's and foreigner's nails is obvious too. It's interesting what kind of pictures was more popular: exotic and decorative or simpler and more sensual?

Marijn

By

Marijn

on 17 March 2020

Thanks Darya, and again a very sharp observation. They are very similar and show Utamaro's fascination with this pose. Do you mean which of the two designs would be considered more compelling to the Japanese reader at the time?

Darya

By

Darya

on 17 March 2020

Yes, which design seemed more attractive. Print with geisha and foreigner is very beautiful and richly decorated (these pants are amazing!), but the Japanese couple seems to be more passionate as Utamaro depicted them with their eyes closed and their fluids dripping down, while the foreigner seems rather be proud of himself, but not really excited by intercourse, so the 'Japanese' image has its' own advantages. These designs have different purposes: the one with a foreigner is bright and humorous and the Japanese one is not so hilarious, but more passionate. It's interesting, what was (and what is) more preferable for the viewers: erotica or exotica?.. This question is rather a rhetorical one as tastes differ...

Marijn

By

Marijn

on 17 March 2020

Yes, both have different starting points. Beautifully expressed Darya!

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