19TH-CENTURY JAPANESE EROTIC PILLOW BOOK WITH TWELVE COLOR WOODBLOCK PRINTS BY FAMED MEIJI TOMIOKA EISEN
EISEN, Tomioka. Yakumo no Chigiri. Tokyo, circa 1890. Tall octavo, original cloth and paper boards, accordion-style binding. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $5800.
Early printing of this 19th-century Japanese color woodblock print “pillow book,” graphically depicting erotic material, complete with 12 exceptional double-page full-color woodblock prints (each 13 by 9-1/2 inches) by celebrated Meiji era artist Tomioka Eisen.
The art of shunga—erotic Japanese woodblock prints—flourished in Japan from the 17th through 19th centuries, reaching its greatest artistic heights in the capital city of Edo (Tokyo), and were most frequently sold as albums (enpon). “Pillow books” were often given to new brides or newly wed couples. While some of the most celebrated artists of the day created enpon as a highly lucrative supplement to their income, the government forbade their sale, resulting in some secrecy. Consequently, such albums are often not signed, as here. These prints, featuring men and women in various erotic positions, are exquisitely detailed and in a rainbow of colors (with each different color necessitating a different woodblock). They were created by celebrated 19th century woodblock print artist Tomioka Eisen. This volume, Yakumo no Chigiri (“Poetic Intercourse”) is one of Eisen’s most notable. “Although at a distance of almost a century and with a style and a poetic language by now quite old, we are therefore in front of a trial of subtle and allusive eroticism for certain verses similar to that of Utamaro” (Shunga, the Erotic Art of Japan, 168).
Illustrations vivid and bright, with only most minor creasing, near-fine. Contemporary binding very good with light rubbing and minor expert repair to folds.