The Fox Mask
Meiwa Era /An’ei Era
Attributed to: Katsukawa Shun’ei (勝川春英)
Height: 27.9 centimetres Width: 638.1 centimetres
Though unsigned, features of the style such as the racing dry brushwork of the outlines of the drapery and sensuous faces with thickly lashed eyes suggest a firm attribution to Katsukawa Shun’ei. Erotic handscrolls generally comprise twelve scenes, so it may be that the artist’s signature was included on one of the two sections which have probably been trimmed from this work.Shun’ei was at pains to extend the boundaries of Ukiyo-e to express a wider range of emotional and psychological states than previous artists. In this handscroll of ten erotic scenes, too, he contrives to avoid conventional poses and situations in what could all too easily become a stereotyped genre, and explores a rich gamut of sexuality ranging from a young woman lying dreaming after reading a love-letter to the contents of her dream in which a couple make desperate love one final time before they commit ritual suicide. In the scene illustrated a husband steals up to embrace his wife from behind as she washes and combs her hair. Her surprise and his powerful passion - conveyed by narrowed and intently gazing eyes seen above her shoulder - are utterly convincing, and bodies, robes and the folds therein, as well as accessories, are all captured with unswerving precision and the utmost sensitivity. It is hard to determine a stylistic development within Shun’ei’s few known paintings, but the relatively strong vestiges of Shunsho’s figure style still apparent in this work indicate perhaps a date not too many years after the latter’s death in 1792.
Lovers in an upstairs room, from Uta makura (‘Poem of the Pillow’), a colour woodblock print
Edo period, AD 1788
Concours de plaisirs des quatre saisons : l’été - XIXe - Chōbunsai Eishi
From a Shunga Album comprising twelve silk paintings. Utagawa school, Japan, late Edo (1603-1868) or Meiji period (1868-1912).
attributed to Eisen, late 19th or early 20th century
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