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Shunga: The Erotic Art of Japan

Shunga: The Erotic Art of Japan

Shunga, or "images of spring," are erotic polychrome engravings painted by the masters of the Japanese Ukiyo-e school during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The shunga served as illustrations for love novels, instructive albums for young wives, and even lucky charms for warriors.

This book is the first to present a special collection of rare, previously unpublished prints, enriched by texts that introduce the various periods and defining characteristics of the genre. Unabashed and exq

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3 Responses  
  • Jacqueline A Culhane writes:
    June 13th, 20124:10 amat
    70 of 70 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    An incredible overview of Shunga., March 30, 2000
    This review is from: Shunga: The Erotic Art of Japan (Hardcover)

    Marco Fagioli’s “Shunga:The Erotic Art of Japan” is an incredible collection of prints and histories. He provides the reader with approx. 22 pages on the (well researched) history of Shunga, that include key names, dates and translations. The pieces shown in the book, give a wonderful overview/representation of the different schools within Shunga. All of the pieces are reproduced with great care, all in vivid color and clear detail. 90 percent of the pieces include a thoughtful caption about the artist, the piece itself, it’s relationship to the period and to shunga as a whole. Some of the captions include translations of any text within the piece as well. Marco Fagioli has done a spectacular job of choosing and displaying these pieces so that both, a first time viewer and a great lover of Shunga, can see the intamacy, skill and grace that it has offer. This book is wonderful for a coffee table, home library, or as a late night picture book for lovers. It is not the best for research material, aside from the wonderful prints, but it can definately serve as a spring-board for further studies. I highly reccomend this book to any with even the slightest interest in Shunga or the art of Japan.

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  • wiredweird "wiredweird" writes:
    June 13th, 20125:05 amat
    25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Beautiful and wide-ranging, May 14, 2005
    wiredweird “wiredweird” (Earth, or somewhere nearby) –
    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Shunga: The Erotic Art of Japan (Hardcover)

    Shunga are literally “images of spring.” That is the time of recreation and procreation, the time that inspires man and woman to couple, as if anyone needed an excuse. Shunga appeared prominently in the works of Hokusai, Utamaro, and many other revered woodcut artists. This lovely book summarizes that honored tradition.

    It starts with the early shunga of Settei (1710-1780) and Jihei (active 1680), and works up to the dawn of the 20th century (1899). The presentation, sequenced by time, creates an order that the originators could never have seen. The less important order has to do with drawing and coloring.

    Colors, since the 1700s could well have faded. Even the best-preserved prints may have retreated into shades of orange and black, if those were the stablest dyes. Some, like p.29, simply omit color altogether, with no loss. Later prints, from the 1820s and on, show rich blues and greens. Some historians attribute these colors, at least some times, to imports of synthetic dyes. Other prints from the era use mica for a glistening effect, or use “blind” impressions of un-inked blocks to create depth. A print fan may only regret the loss of information regarding technical issues of image creation.

    The rest of us, however, take the greatest pleasure in the egagement of the sexes, epitomized in a sumo fight of man vs. woman (p.57). Most of the prints show basic couplings of man and woman, complicated only by their improbable angles and their exaggerated organs. Others show man and woman at play with each other’s genitals (p. 135, 156), or sometimes a woman at play by herself (p.112, 127, 139, 164, etc). At least one (p.56) displays man engaged with man, showing very different social gender even for the same physical sex. Some pictures demand three- or more-way couplings (p.31, 46-7), others suggest that tied partners sometimes enhanced an ecounter (p.76-7, 137). Still others, like Hokusai’s octopus (p.115), invoke a uniquely Japanese mythology, leaving an image that a Western eye can only see in very strange ways. Others (p.118) express a humor that works wherever men and women exist together.

    As the years advanced, I found the images sucessively more enticing because of the increasing nvolvement of the female characters. Early on, up to the mid-1700s, the woman was entirely passive, a receptacle (however grand) for the male advance (however grand). Koryusai and Shigemasa display women with needs and interests of their own. Toyokuni and Hokusai promote women to center stage, with fondlings, genital kisses, and other activities that focus wholly on the ladies’ fulfillment, sometimes at their own hands (p.112, 127, 168).

    This is a lovely book. I admit, I have given short shrift to its text, even though I found it interesting and informative in those few places I stopped to read. This book is about its pictures, carefully organized and captioned, and in historical order.

    It is beautiful. I truly hope that you can see it for the cultural sample that it is, and also for the expression of physical happiness that it is.


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  • James R. Holland "Author of Boston's Notable ... writes:
    June 13th, 20125:25 amat
    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    This is by far one of the best illustrated book about Shunga, June 30, 2007

    This review is from: Shunga: The Erotic Art of Japan (Hardcover)

    I’d been aware of Shunga, also known as “Images of Spring”, an ancient Japanese euphemism for erotic art, for many years. It wasn’t until I actually began collecting Shunga engravings that I could recognize which books were the better sources for information about the art. This finely printed volume includes many of the rarer, lesser known, and often shocking, by western standards, classic Japanese artworks. Like many people I began collecting this art form because it was beautiful, erotic, always over a century old, and relatively inexpensive because nobody actually knows how many examples of these pillow-book engravings still survive. World War II and the American Occupation led to many of the works being destroyed either by actual bombings and firestorms or by the imposition of Puritan values on the traditional Japanese culture. Although highly erotic in nature, a few of these Shunga engravings are among the most famous images in art history. Some, like “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” by Katsushika Hokusai are credited with introducing a whole new sexual language to the non-Japanese world. If a person only has time to examine a single book on the subject, this would be one of the better choices among many good volumes on the art form. Shunga art was done by the same master artists of the more well-known Japanese scenic woodblock prints.

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