Sugimura Jihei 杉村治兵衛 (fl. c. 1681 - 1703)
Three Lovers

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

This “cover sheet” is the first image in a series of twelve shunga prints by Jihei, the fifth image of which also is on display nearby. A wakashū reclines beside a woman — perhaps a courtesan — and reaches inside her robe, while another woman — also likely a courtesan — sits on the wakashū’s hip and flirts with him. In the upper left corner, the viewer can see a veranda and the garden beyond.

The elaborately decorated kimono that the figures wear have led some scholars to wonder if Jihei had at one point studied textile design. Of particular interest is the way in which he uses part of his signature to decorate the sash of the reclining woman. As with Jihei’s print to the left of this one, sections of the composition have been carefully colored by hand. The white pigment applied to the reclining woman’s face is particularly well preserved.

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