What is Shunga?
signed on the screen in the background, Kiyonaga ga, with publisher's seal Kozu han (Kozuya Isuke of Keiundo), 1785
koban 8 3/4 by 6 3/8 in., 22.1 by 16.1 cm
Two courtesans relax in an interior setting, it appears to be the morning quiet after hosting the previous evening. One stands with her outer-robe loosely draped over her shoulders and holding a packet of tissues suggesting she is preparing to freshen-up. She pauses and turns to address her seated companion who leans against an unmade bed while holding a long tobacco pipe. In the background a folded screen partially blocks a wall of shoji panels and on the floor a large red lacquer tray holds porcelain bowls and a small iron tetsubin is placed nearby.
The series is a loosely treated comparison of the denizens of the pleasure quarters with the Takaramono (precious treasures) found in the Takarabune, the treasure ship of the Seven Lucky Gods. The treasure referenced on this print, shippo (or shippo-tsunagi), represented by a pattern of interlocking circles, symbolizes seven treasures identified in Buddhist texts which include gold, silver, lapis, agate, giant clam shell (mother-of-pearl), coral or pearl, and clear or rose quartz. Designs from the series appear to be very scarce, Hirano records only five of the ten designs, not including this one. Two are in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the other three were in the Haviland Collection.
Series: Ten Magical Treasures of the Floating World
Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art
Publisher: Kozuya Isuke of Keiundo
Chie Hirano, Kiyonaga: A Study of His Life and Works, 1939, pp. 373-374, cat. nos. 744-748
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (mfa.org), accession nos. 11.19736 and 11.19390
Japanese, 1752-1815, Japan, based in Japan