Shunga 春画

erotic art

Japanese prints have enjoyed incredible influence across the planet since the end of the 19th century. But if the works of Hokusai or Hiroshige knew such a diffusion that we can find them even on the t-shirts of the Uniqlo brand, another type of print developed at the same time: erotic prints, or shunga.


The other side of ukiyo-e


Ukiyo-e, or "image of the floating world" prints, mostly from the Edo period (1603 - 1868), represent the world of pleasures and its actors (courtesans, kabuki actors, etc.), as well as the nature or famous places. Following this movement was born the more confidential art of "shunga " or "image of spring", a euphemistic reference to the sexual act (in Japanese, prostitution is called "baishun" or "the sale of spring").



Shunga by Keisai Eisen


A diverse sexual imagination


The images of the shunga stage the sexual act, mainly heterosexual, where the man and the woman are most often dressed with only the bare genitals. Clothing has no function of modesty in shunga, nudity being common in Edo period Japan. Rather, their painting was intended to highlight the genitals, although some figures may be nude.

Beyond a heterosexual couple of the same age, many prints describe homosexual relations or couples where the elderly man

Hokusai's Fisherman's Wife's Dream


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