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