Frequently explicit, but also tender, sensuous and humorous, even educational, shunga – a euphemism meaning ‘picture of spring’ – celebrates all facets of human sexuality. Hugely popular in Japanese society, such depictions were regarded as entirely natural and are an expression of the refined, pleasure-seeking ‘floating world’ culture for which Edo-period Japan,
when many of these works were created, is famed.
Shunga works were enjoyed by all sections of society, from samurai to ordinary newly married couples, especially after the advent of woodblock printing made them affordable and accessible – it was even possible to borrow books from libraries. Almost every artist of the famed ukiyo-e school, including Hokusai, Utamaro and Kuniyoshi, created shunga displaying brilliant imagination, great technical achievement and originality.
In a dazzling diversity of images drawn from his own unrivalled collection, Ofer Shagan shows us the full spectrum of sexual practice and expression, including nudity and clothing, voyeurism, gods, monsters and animals, orgasm, adultery and jealousy, and much else. Organized thematically, this book highlights the symbols and motifs, often hidden in the background of the art, which are crucial for a proper understanding and appreciation of this genre.
For a long time shunga remained taboo and excluded from scholarship, but this ambitious book, with a foreword by Professor Andrew Gerstle of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, returns these wonderful artworks to their rightful place in the history of Japanese art, culture and society.
Japanese erotic art, shunga, has a long history, with thousands of paintings, prints, and illustrated books produced, mostly from the s eventeenth to late nineteenth centuries. Shunga literally means “picture of spring”—“spring” being a common Japanese euphemism for sex—and the works celebrate all facets of human sexuality with great candor.
Unlike earlier books that have tended to focus on individual artists, this new publication has a thematic structure, covering the whole spectrum of sexual practice and expression, including adultery and jealousy, voyeurism, orgasm, and violent sex and death. Using images from his own unparalleled collection, Ofer Shagan brings the rich and vast world of shunga to modern view, highlighting the messages, symbols, and humor that often appear in the background but are fundamentally significant for understanding the messages in the art.
1,200+ illustrations in color