Sogyoku engo hana momiji [Pillow Talk, like Flowers in Spring & Maple Leaves in Autumn]. By Kyokuntei Shujin [a pen name for Shunsui Tamenaga]
[KEISAI (or IKEDA), Eisen, artist]
Price: 8,500.00 USD
Three full-page, 14 double-page, & 3 half-page woodcuts extending over two pages each, all color-printed, many heightened with blind-embossing, silver, & gold. 15; 12; 16 folding leaves. Three vols. 8vo, orig. decorated semi-stiff boards (covers rubbed & a little soiled), each with a different woodcut colored vignette & block-printed title label pasted-on upper cover, new stitching. N.p.: n.d [ca. 1829]. First edition of this rare shunga; not in WorldCat. The Keio University copy lacks one volume, and the Ritsumeikan University copy has just the second volume (of three). The title is suggestive of abundance of sexual pleasure: one woman in the spring and another in the autumn. Indeed, many of the woodcuts depict multiple partners or a man and woman engaging in sexual relations with a second woman observing. Megumi says that there is "a lot going on in each image" with many suggestive icons and objects. Keisai (1790-1848), of samurai birth, was one of the principal ukiyo-e artists of erotica in the later Edo period, rivalling Hokusai, Kunisada, and Kuniyoshi. From the 1810s, he became known for his highly eroticized images of women and for his explicit erotic books. A man of dissolute habits, he retired from the art world in about 1830 and owned a house of prostitution. "Of this group [of the Utagawa school] Keisai Eisen and Hiroshige were the chief figures...[Keisai was] the son of Ikedo Yoshikiyo, a Kano painter of Yedo, a writer and a well-known cha-jin or tea ceremony expert. Eisen thus had a much higher social position than most of the Ukiyo-ye artists and was familiar with both the Tosa and Kano methods of work. Later he abandoned the classic art and with it, unhappily [not in our opinion], a good many other restraining influences, becoming an exponent of the popular school and adopting the loose manners and morals of many of its members. His ability was undoubted, however, and he was probably the best of Eizan's pupils."-Brown, Block Printing & Book Illustration in Japan, pp. 192-93. The very first woodcut in Vol. I sets the tone for the entire work: we see two mandarin ducks mating, signifying good relations between man and woman. Many of the images display ample use of bokashi, the delicate variation of shading of pigment within the image, blind-embossing, and the use of gold and silver. The images are sharp impressions. The colored-printed vignettes on the upper wrappers each depict a different place. On Vol. I, we see Fudaraku-san, a mythical mountain where the Buddhist bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was said to live. The vignette on Vol. II depicts the temple Kiyomizu in eastern Kyoto, which has a shrine dedicated to Okuninushi, a god of love and good matches. The third volume's vignette depicts Shimabara, a district in Kyoto dedicated to pleasure and prostitution. The author of the text, Tamenaga (1790-1844), is most famous for his series of romantic novels mainly written in the 1820s and '30s in the genre of ninjobon, which focused on young love and were generally aimed to attract female readers (but plenty of men read them, too). His love scenes were highly suggestive but never explicit, triggering the reader's imagination. He was a major writer of the late-Edo period, famous for having disobeyed the Tenpo Reforms. For his erotic writings, he was put under house arrest in 1842 and kept in manacles for 50 days. Some inevitable thumbing and soiling in lower outer corners of each page. ❧ For Keisai, see Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, pp. 821-26, 894, 900-02, & 904.