Kunichika (attrib.), Shunga Leaf from 'Geisha From the House of Spring Flowers'

Toyohara Kunichika (attrib.)(1835-1900) Shunga Leaf from 'Geisha From the House of Spring Flowers', 1860’s. Yotsugiri.

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We are listing three shunga prints in this show. Two, one by Hiroshige and a stunning double page by Kunichika are discreet, subtle pieces. This one much less so. Although much more explicit, the print is nevertheless a masterpiece of design. It comes from a book titled, Geisha From the House of Spring Flowers of the 1860’s. The book itself had fifteen colour pages, of which two were double pages,  It’s a lovely piece and in perfect condition. A pristine sheet packed with incident and fine draughtsmanship. The figure on the right is nearly identical to Yoshitoshi’s print of Muraoka, Head Lady-in-Waiting of the Konoe Clan from 1887, yet this  Kunichika certainly predates that, making this a potential source for the Yoshitoshi. More likely they share a common source.

It remains a disturbing image. The woman is bound to a tree, in the kinbaku style and the intercourse is possibly coercive.  They are seated on a verandah of sorts, snow litters the ground, the male holds a tobacco pipe, (a phallic symbol). The conventional foreground device of cloud shapes hides the middle distance, beyond it are snow covered roofs. I suspect that there may have been an element of travel to this book since the various known pages carry names of districts (restaurants even?) - in this case Fukagawa… Kunichika was to illustrate a restaurant here later, in 1878.

This is a very rare thing indeed. Kunichika made very little shunga and very little of that survives in anything other than tatty condition. The pristine quality of this piece makes it fairly unique. This is a great design, superb condition, colour and impression are quite perfect.

18 x 12 cm.