Sugimura Jihei 杉村治兵衛 (active c. 1681-1703)
Lovers Overseen

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), mid-1680s
Woodblock print; ink on paper with hand-coloring
Gift of James A. Michener, 1972

When publishing a series of shunga prints, an artist often included one or more non-explicit images. Though commonly referred to as “cover sheets,” these images were not necessarily used to conceal the sexual nature of the series but rather to provide moments of calm amidst the more frenetic images. The print displayed here, the fifth image in an untitled series of twelve erotic prints that Jihei published sometime in the mid-1680s, functions as an interim “cover sheet.”

Here, a wakashū samurai embraces his lover in a bedchamber, pillows and blankets scattered around them. Their privacy is interrupted by a female attendant who peers at them from behind one of the sliding doors. The woman’s kimono has been hand-colored by Jihei or one of his assistants. The overall image is framed by an elaborate border, and a decorative “quarter-chrysanthemum” motif is found in each corner. This is the only series by Jihei that utilize such formal elements, but a similar border can be found in a slightly earlier shunga series by Hishikawa Moronobu (1631-1694), a selection from which is displayed elsewhere in this exhibition.

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