While the subject of women is dominant within the arts of Man there are few artists whom we associate primarily with this subject. One major exception to this phenomenon is Utamaro Kitagawa (1753-1806).
Utamaro‘s final, according to some his crowning, accomplishment in his erotic work is the shunga album called ‘Komachi-biki (Embracing Komachi/Venus)‘ issued in 1802. A conclusive examination of this primary shunga album is not yet possible, this is mainly because it is hard to locate, bring together and comparing the few available examples of this rare set, divided over the private collections of the world.
The images of the Komachi-biki series below lack the frontispiece that depicts a touching abuna-e (risky picture) scene of a maiden passionately making love to a lukewarm young male. Originally the series consists of 13 plates.
Plate 1: A depiction of the most passionate of sexual love, the young woman has positioned herself delicately on top of her male lover. She raised her left leg in order to apply the maximum of pleasure to her private parts. This scene refers to the summer and according to late ukiyo-e expert Dr. Richard Lane, ” it is one of the most voluptuous tableaux in all erotic art.”
Plate 2: A young woman intricately expresses her passion and infinite adoration, as her stoic lover prepares for intercourse. In the conversation a special Buddhist festival held in the Sixth Month of the year 1801 is mentioned.
Plate 3: This plate also takes place during summer with the man penetrates the young woman from the rear. She has a hair tied up after taking a bath. A bath-towel draped over the screen in the back.
Plate 4: The lovers kiss as the young woman assumes an almost acrobatic position on top of the man. It is yet again summer, with a fan at hand and bamboo blind at left. The text includes detailed reference to several noted rakes and playboys of the time. If anything, this intrusion tends to detract from the erotic mood of the scene, but such references seem to have titillated the scandal-loving readers of the time, not to mention the artist himself.
Plate 5: The secret lover on this plate engages with a high-ranking Yoshiwara geisha (oiran) from a side and rear position. This print in a mint condition offers opulent coloring that lends graphic testimony to their intense emotions. The text reveals the geisha has only with difficulty taken brief refuge from the salon where her wealthy patron awaits in slumber. According to Richard Lane this is probably the masterpiece of the series.
Plate 6: This scene takes place in the winter with the aroused slipping out from the covered charcoal-brazier as the courtesan mounts her naked young lover, and covers him with her silken under-robe.
Click HERE for the second part of this Utamaro Kitagawa series…!!!