Torii Kiyonobu I 初代鳥居清信 (1664-1729)
Holding Up Both Legs (Ryōashi kakae 両足抱え)
From an untitled portfolio

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1710
Woodblock print; ink on paper with hand-coloring
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991

Shortly after publishing this print, the artist Kiyonobu I used a slightly modified version as the final image of an erotic handscroll, currently in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ collection, that is considered his most significant achievement known to date. The son of a Kabuki actor, Kiyonobu I spent much of his career producing graphically bold signboards and other promotional material for the theater. Though he did not formally study under Hishikawa Moronobu, Kiyonobu’s admiration of his predecessor’s style is evident: the economy and grace with which Kiyonobu describes his figures and the way in which the shapes comprising those figures interrelate convey the same sense of serene fluidity as Moronobu’s “singing lines.”

Since this print predates the innovation of multi-block color printing, the colors were added with a brush after the monochromatic print had dried. Both the line-work and color add to this explicit image a sense of charm, innocence, and whimsy, and certainly such a mood was crucial to the sudden, wide-spread popularization of erotica during the early Edo period.

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