Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)


Dragon King's Underwater Palace
(Iro ryugujo)

deluxe koban shunga with twelve prints (one duplicate) and original fukuro; each print with series title Ryogujo in a red cartouche, the compositions depicting couples in well-furnished interior settings that could be located in the pleasure quarters, most decorated with indicators of wealth and leisure including screens, paintings, lacquer and brocades, some with trays of food and drink, the women are all finely-dressed in the manner of geisha or courtesans, with one homosexual couple with Chinese attire and furnishings, all with metallic printing, their limbs and other details in karazuri ('blind printing'), ca. 1840s

fukuro 6 by 4 1/2 in., 15.3 by 11.5 cm (folded)

The production of lavish oban-sized shunga albums or single sheet prints tapered off in the late 1820s. The Bridge of Heaven set by Yanagawa Shigenobu, was one of the last grand productions of its type. The reasons for this shift are unclear: censorship and economic pressures likely played a role both in the ability to produce the prints as well as the market demand for expensive publications. In addition, publishers were benefiting from a large audience for serialized novels. As such, shunga images were increasingly presented with not just dialogue but text worked in and around the figures. To wit- everyone enjoys a good story (to go along with the erotic images). Around the same time another new format emerged: koban-sized sets of high-quality surimono-style prints that often were egoyomi (calendar prints). The koban sets are rarely (if ever) signed but lavishly produced jewels, usually printed with rich colors and embellishments such as metallic printing and embossing. The koban format remained popular into the Meiji Period.

Highlights of Japanese Printmaking Part 4: Shunga, Scholten Japanese Art, 2014, cat. no. 46

Chris Uhlenbeck and Margarita Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies: Sexual Imagery of the Edo Period, 2005, pp., 22-23, p. 164, and p. 211, no. 84 (similar koban set)

price: $4,000


Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm preferably for no more than two individuals at a time.
Visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.

site last updated
May 25, 2023

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475