School of Sugimura Jihei 杉村治兵衛派 (flourished c. 1681-1703)
The Sugimura Jihei Genre Handscroll
(Sugimura jihei fūzoku emaki 杉村治兵衛風俗絵巻)
, detail

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), 1681-1703
Hand scroll; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

A true tour de force in the genre of shunga, this nikuhitsu (painted) ukiyo-e handscroll masterfully ties together a variety of topics and imagery discussed throughout this exhibition. At first glance, the vignettes within the handscroll may seem to depict little more than couples carousing in imaginative, physically challenging positions, but on closer inspection, the artist reveals that his attention is focused on other, peripheral matters: the gender and social status of characters, the sumptuous textile designs with which they surround themselves, the curious ways in which two figures intertwine their bodies, and the relationship between passionate couples and voyeuristic bystanders.

Though the uneven brushwork in areas of the handscroll indicates the assistance of apprentices, the initial line-work is graceful and confident, and the overall composition of each vignette is dynamic — certainly the work of either Jihei himself or one of his most promising students.

View this artwork in its entirety on museum database (enabled through support by the Robert F. Lange Foundation)