Suzuki Harunobu, Near a Bowl of Goldfish

Suzuki Harunobu, ca. 1724-1770

Near a Bowl of Goldfish

from an untitled series; a couple near an open verandah with a view of irises blooming at a waters' edge and a large ceramic basin with goldfish, she holds a long tobacco pipe, her open tobacco pouch is in the foreground beside a smoking set, ca. 1768

chuban yoko-e 8 1/8 by 11 1/8 in., 20.7 by 28.2 cm

To the right of the pillow is a large folded packet which is inscribed across the top, Wakoku (lit. 'country of harmony,' the historical name for Japan which originated in China) and below, Yamiyo (Dark Night). The evocative name of Dark Night and the prominent placement in an erotic print suggests that it is likely an aphrodisiac. Many aphrodisiac incense, powders and ointments had exotic names that implied they were foreign, such as Oranda keiko ('Dutch fragrant incense') or Karasenko and Tosenko ('Chinese incense stick'). It is interesting that this product is asserting itself as domestic, but the name Wakoku alludes to an ancient origin.

References:
Lane, Images from the Floating World, 1978, p. 108, pl. 96
Hayashi and Lane (eds.), The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga, no. 21, Harunobu, 1998, pl. 13
Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies, 2005, pp.199-201 (on aphrodisiacs)

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