Attributed to Utagawa Kunisada, Toyokuni III, 1786-1865
Dragon King's Underwater Palace
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
each koban yoko-e approximately 6 by 4 5/8 in., 15.3 by 11.7 cm
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 (cat. no. 43), 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 witeveryone 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 (1868-1912).
Uhlenbeck and Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies, 2005, pp., 22-23,
p. 164, and p. 211, no. 84 (similar koban set)
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