The series opens with three couples enjoying each other's company with food and drinks. The finely appointed room is decorated with a large standing screen, arrangements of flowers, and a hanging scroll on display in the tokonoma (alcove). The blossoming plum chosen for the decorations and the closed shoji panels suggest that it is a cold season.
2: Shamisen Instructor
The second sheet shows a shamisen instructor taking advantage of his young student. He holds her left hand against her chest and pushes her right arm to the ground as he uses his weight to pin her down, her right wrist is twisted in resistance.
3: In the Pleasure Quarters
The lovers' bodies curve into each other in ecstasy, her expression and curled toes convey her pleasure. The wave pattern on the closed panels at the upper left and the diamond panel on the backside of a folding screen at the lower right create a sense of enclosure and heightens the intimacy.
4: Before the Mirror
A woman covers her face with her kimono sleeves her lover looks over his shoulder to see their reflection in a mirror for added narcistic stimulation. As is the case in most ukiyo-e prints or paintings utilizing a mirror, the reflection depicted would be impossible from that position.
5: Near the Go Board
A couple compactly entwined, she closes her eyes in pleasure as he locks his arms together and squares his jaw in determination. Just past their heads is a sake kettle and go board with a tray of snacks and a glass goblet. In the dialogue the man says: "I can't last any longer...here I come! Do you want it?" to which she answers: "I don't know why...ah..ah..ah!"
6: Seamstress and her Lover
A woman is on top of her lover and in full control as she squeezes him tightly around his neck. In the foreground is a tobacco pipe and pouch, in the background is her sewing kit.
Our view is from slightly above from the classic fukinuki yatai ('blown off roof') technique, a man gently kisses his lover and engages in foreplay, she wraps her arm around him and pulls him closer. He assures her: "There's no hurry, we have the whole night before us." The area is closed in by the strong diagonals of the walls and folding screen, and half their bodies are enveloped in the surging patterns from their robes and bedding.
8: Writing a Letter
A woman tries to continue working on writing a letter while her lover carries on from behind. She closes her eyes in concentration and exclaims: "Ah I am coming already, I am coming..."
9: Kissing her Breast
A couple lies surrounded by robes and bedding, a folding screen in the lower left corner provides some privacy. He kisses her breast and pulls at the opening of her kimono while she covers her mouth with her sleeve, perhaps in embarrassed anticipation.
10: Young Lovers
A wakashu (an adolescent boy whose front hair is not yet shaved) makes love to a girl who throws her head back in extreme pleasure. Her hair has fallen out of its combs and her toes are curled tightly. The folding screen in the background is decorated with a bold waterfall.
11: A Sumo Hold
The positioning of this passionate couple is so entwined it does bring to mind the grabbling of wrestling. He is entering her from behind but she manages to twist her upper body around and grasp at him in what appears to be nearly a headlock. Her expression and gestures are of intense involvement and pleasure.
12: Bath House
The last sheet depicts a group of figures on a smaller scale with a similar compositional balance as the first sheet. Even though almost everyone is completely nude, the scene is partially innocent, depicting men and women of all ages in a public bath house. A young woman at the far left is enjoying a massage, and returning the favor. At the right is a young man who is aroused by the view and to his side is a fully-clothed older manmost likely the proprietor of the house. There were mixed public bath houses until they were banned during the Kansei Reforms of the 1790s.
Isoda Koryusai, fl. ca. 1764-1789
Twelve Bouts in the Way of Love
(Shikido Torikumi Juniban)
complete set of twelve oban prints, the frontispiece signed Koryusai ga, ca. 1775-77
each oban yoko-e approximately 9 1/4 by 14 7/8 in., 23.5 by 37.7 cm
This set published:
Klompmakers, Japanese Erotic Prints, 2001, pp. 127-149
Uhlenbeck and Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies, 2005, pp. 109-112, nos. 28a, 28d, 28c
Bru, Erotic Japonisme: The Influence of Japanese Sexual Imagery on Western Art, 2014, p. 62, no. 54 and p. 122, no. 132
Hayashi and Lane (eds.), The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga, no. 3, Twelve Bouts for Eros: Koryusai's Shikido tokkumi Shunga Album, 1996
Kobayashi (ed.), Ukiyo-e soroimono makura-e: Shunga, 1997, Vol. I, pp. 26-37
Shirakura, Eiri shunga ehon mokuroku, 2007, p. 156
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 for no more than two individuals at a time.
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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
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