Tsukioka Settei: The Shunga Magician From Osaka
Tsukioka Settei (1726-1787) was an artist who lived and worked mainly in Osaka. Together with Sukenobu he is considered to be the leading artist of the Floating World in Kamigata, a region that included Kyoto and Osaka. Settei had a classical training at the Kano school and was partly influenced by Moronobu’s style.
His own style moved toward a less forceful expression than that of the earlier Edo masters. Settei’s shunga were famous in their own day. Some were in great demand as magical panacea against various disasters. But they are now hard to find.
The following 26 double-page and 2 singe-page illustrations are from a rare booklet (c.1750s) attributed to Settei. Actually, these are two books bound to one and contain some influential designs and compositions that can be found in the work of later master such as Utamaro.
The scene with the black slave and his stunned Dutch master is a classic…
Openingspage with on the left image two Japanese paradise flycatchers on a twig surrounded by blossom.
The Yellow Emperor
Chinese emperor (probably a parody on the Yellow Emperor*) and his favorite concubine making love on the rooftop terrace with a killer view. He is moving a wooden fan for some cooling.’ **
Multi-tasking lady is holding her newborn, working in the garden and is taken from behind by her spouse at the same time. A lumper, used to undercut ball clay cubes, is behind them.
On a roof terrace a man is being “molested” by three lusty females.
Three ruthless warriors, one of them holding a burning torch, are determined to smoke out the couple hiding in the reed bed.
A very rare scene of a black slave and a young geisha. A charming detail is the thumb she puts into the mouth of her exotic dark-skinned lover!
The Dutch slave master on the right is in shock as he caught one of his subordinates having sex with a Japanese geisha. Clearly they’re both in the pleasure quarters of town, but still, a slave would never be allowed to venture there, hence the look of shock/anger on his face.
A samurai is distracted while making love by two whispering courtesans in the other room.
A high-ranking samurai (his swords lie beside him) is passionately making love to his favorite geisha. The latter sports a hair-style that was fashionable at that time. They are being watched by an amused colleague.
Filthy Peeping Tom
A filthy masturbating man is caught by the intimate couple he secretly spies upon from behind a black curtain.
In an unlit room we see a copulating couple passionately kissing while they are being watched by a female sitting at the entrance.
Artificial Sex Device
Their activities are observed by a young aroused courtesan uses a wooden object to satisfy herself with one hand while holding a bamboo stalk in the other.
A compliant geisha is offering herself to a young lover. Another geisha sitting outside on the plateau, is eavesdropping on them.
A geisha accidentally interrupts a colleague who is just providing her services to a customer.
Peeking Couple in Silhouette
A furtive encounter between a geisha and client in the hallway is observed by another couple peeking through a hole in the latticed door of an illuminated room.
Two samurai gossiping about their colleague who are making love in the warehouse.
Second part of the book with medium close-up designs.
The following designs differ in focus and scale from the more distant designs in the first part. The view is close up, and so the communication of enjoyment is much more palpable to the viewer:
Vagina Close Up
Depiction of a vagina close up in a circular frame.
A striking composition with all the intimate protagonists only partly visible, The couple on the right almost play a supporting role in the image while the water basin in the garden is placed in the center.
An married has a secret romantic rendezvous with a young lover in a garden. They think they are alone but in are observed in the distance by a not so cheerful female spectator (probably his wife).
A client is directing the hand of a shy inexperienced geisha towards his penis. A stone water basin with a bamboo scoop can be seen outside.
A clumsy male has a premature orgasm while shamefully scratching the back of his head.
A yearning single woman tries to satisfy her sexual desire with a harigata (dildo). She firmly embraces a geisha pillow (takamakura) with one arm, to reinforce her imagination. Her actions are observed by a young intrigued Buddhist monk with shaved hair.
Mutual Oral Sex
A rare scene with a couple performing mutual oral sex.
An influential design with the couple almost completely covered by the blanket only revealing the heads and private parts.
A couple has interrupted their music lessons and have surrendered to their sensual urges.
An unshaven bald man is having intercourse with an aroused geisha.
A medium close-up design of a covert encounter. The woman’s geta (Japanese footwear resembling clogs), depicted just within the frame outside in the garden, are an indication that this is a secret love affair.
A close-up scene displaying a young courtesan and lover from samurai heritage. She is trying to impress him by playing on her koto (Japanese 13-stringed musical instrument).
*I discussed this with Chinese art expert Ferdinand Bertholet. The Yellow Emperor (traditional, mythical date 2697-2599 BC) is the mythical founder of Chinese civilization and laid the foundations of Chinese medicine. In addition he has traditionally been seen as the founder of Taoism together with the Old Master Laozi. The classical texts were included under the later lost chapter of medical texts in the section Zi (Masters) of the Shui shu (History of the Sui Dynasty), compiled in 656. They were, however, already mentioned in the Baopuzi, a work from the Jin dynasty (fourth century), and survived in Japan in a compilation of medical works published in the Edo period; Miyoko, 2001, pp. 198-199. (Source: Concubines and Courtesans: Women in Chinese Erotic Art by Ferdinand Bertholet)
He is also known as the Yellow Thearch, or by his Chinese name Huangdi.
**Settei produced a similar design with the Chinese emperor at the same spot (picture below)…
Click HERE for more sensual art from the same era..!!
Do you like the descriptions in the above article? Leave your feedback in the comment box below..!!