The Kanbun Master 寛文巨匠 (act. c. late 1660s-early 1670s)
Caught in the Act
Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. late 1660s-early 1670s
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

A couple embracing in bed beneath a yogi (kimono-shaped comforter) arise slightly with startled facial expressions, their lovemaking presumably disturbed by some noise or intruder. This work dates to the Kanbun era (1661-1673), leading the art scholar Richard Lane to dub its artist “the Kanbun Master,” a predecessor of Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694) and possibly the founder of ukiyo-e printmaking.

Though Lane attributed various woodblock prints and woodblock-printed books to the Kanbun Master, an image such as this, hand-painted by the artist, is exceedingly rare, and the fact that it depicts a couple in bed offers further evidence that erotica was a fundamental theme in ukiyo-e.

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