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Isoda Koryusai

A: Second Month (Kisaragi)

The first Horse Day
today is my first time
as people apply their first moxa

A young man is seated next to a girl at a writing table; she has given up on her work and rests her head on her paper while he rubs his ink stick on the ink stone. The text clarifies that while he pretends to help with her calligraphy he asks: "Isn't it nice and warm?" to which she replies: "It hurts, but I can endure." Beneath the table we can see her knees are parted, at right a pair of eyes peeping through a tear in the paper shoji panel suggest a voyeur on the verandah may have a better view. The poem alludes to a first sexual encounter for the young girl.

Isoda Koryusai, fl. ca. 1764-1789

Prosperous Flowers of the Fashionable Twelve Months
(Furyu Juniki no Eiga)

chuban orihon (folded album) with dark blue covers (title slip missing); with ten sheets from the series of twelve depicting a variety of erotic encounters, each presented in relation to the months according to the lunar calendar and with haiku poem and dialogue, ca. 1771-73

chuban orihon 8 3/8 by 5 1/2 in., 21.2 by 14 cm (folded)

each chuban yoko-e 8 1/4 by 10 7/8 in., 21 by 27.5 cm

The compositions in this Koryusai album are based on Suzuki Harunobu's three volume shunga ehon, Imayo tsuma kagami (Mirror of Wives of Today, ca. 1771), a posthumously published book which juxtaposes erotic scenes with poems from the early 11th-century anthology, Wakan roei shu (Japanese and Chinese Poems to Sing) in which Chinese verses are paired with Japanese waka (31 syllable poems) and organized according to the seasons (for an illustration of a composition in the Harunobu book which corresponds to month six see Calza, p. 174). The interplay between the compositions, dialogues and poems in this series have subtle double entendre and literary allusions that are not easy to discern. It is the classic paradigm of ukiyo-e, the floating world as compared to nature.

This album published:
Klompmakers, Japanese Erotic Prints, 2001, pp. 105-123
Uhlenbeck and Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies, pp. 106-107, nos. 26a & 26b (5th and 8th months)
Calza, Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories, 2010, pp. 178-190

Hayashi and Lane (eds.), The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga, no. 3, Twelve Bouts for Eros: Koryusai's Shikido tokkumi Shunga Album, 1996, p.7 (spurious Harunobu variant of month twelve)
Hayakawa, Forbidden Images- Erotic Art from Japan's Edo Period, 2002 (dialogue translations)
Hockley, The Prints of Isoda Koryusai, 2003, p. 285
Shirakura, Eiri shunga ehon mokuroku, 2007, p. 158
Shirakura and Hayakawa, Shunga: Japanese Erotic Art, 2009, no. 3, 54, 129 (months 2, 5, 9)
Waterhouse, The Harunobu Decade, 2013, no. 31 & 32
The British Museum,, no. 1972,0724,0.6
(ex. collection John Singer Sargent)

Price: Contact Scholten


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site last updated
May 5, 2021

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