Picture-book: The Laughing Drinker (Ehon warai jogo) was probably Utamaro‘s last erotic book, published at New Year 1803. The title refers to someone who perpetually becomes lighthearted when intoxicated.
The preface purports to be a letter from the artist’s wife, addressed in his absence to the publisher. Written in a suitably feminine calligraphic style, she explains that her husband ‘Uta’ has gone off on a pilgrimage, and so she has been so bold as to carry out the coloring of his designs.
‘There is no better conjunction of the male and female principles’, she writes, than such a connubial artistic collaboration. Each of the three volumes opens with a single-page bust portrait (okubi-e) of a courtesan, which, after seven double-page pictures, is mirrored by a close-up ‘portrait’ of a woman’s genitalia (otsubi-e).
The volumes close with an erotic short story, unrelated to the preceding pictures. The main images are enlivened with raunchy, explicit dialogue, revealing the relationships between the characters, who for the most part are ordinary townspeople. There are two further editions of the book around 1806, printed from recut blocks and of inferior quality, indicating the work’s commercial success.
Five Or Six Men
Dialogue plays an important role in imparting information about scene and characters. Here, the young geisha says, ‘I’d like another five or six men as cute as you, and I’d have them do me day and night without stop.’
The majority of people portrayed in shunga are common men and women. Here a young married couple make love enthusiastically in their bedroom. We can eavesdrop on their conversation in the text written on the image. The husband compliments his wife, saying, ‘What a great pussy you have – feel like I’m being sucked right in.’ She demands, ‘I want to be pleasured much more.’
His original erotic art can be found in our GALLERY…!!!
Source: ‘Shunga, Erotic Art in Japan‘ by Rosina Buckland
Utamaro is generally considered to be one of the greatest ukiyo-e artists. One of my favorite designs of his, is the kappa rape scene. What makes the scene so unsettling is that the ama diver on top seems to enjoy the underwater rape of a colleague. Or are we watching at her fantasy?
What is is your favorite Utamaro design and why?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!