Years ago I went to see an exhibition about Japanese art and it was so interesting.
This specific art is called Shunga. Most shunga are a type of ukiyo-e, usually executed in woodblock print format. While rare, there are extant erotic painted handscrolls which predate the Ukiyo-e movement. Translated literally, the Japanese word shunga means picture of spring; “spring” is a common euphemism for sex.
And believe me it is pretty explicit and absolutely sophisticated at the same time.
The technique really amazed me, they create a piece of wood to stamp specific details on the rise paper, over and over again, it seems simple but it must be precise otherwise the piece could be destroyed.
This process is like making a Swiss watch but stamping on paper with wooden stamps. Tic tac, tic tac…
The photo is for The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife 蛸と海女, this is based on the story of Princess Tamatori, highly popular in the Edo period. In this story, Tamatori is a modest shell diver who marries Fujiwara no Fuhito of the Fujiwara clan, who is searching for a pearl stolen from his family by Ryūjin, the dragon god of the sea. Vowing to help, Tamatori dives down to Ryūjin’s undersea palace of Ryūgū-jō, and is pursued by the god and his army of sea creatures, including octopuses.
She cuts open her own breast and places the jewel inside; this allows her to swim faster and escape, but she dies from her wound soon after reaching the surface.
The Gallery Ukiyoe has a good selection to admire and discover this art.
I hope you enjoy it 😉