Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章 (1726–1792)
Souvenirs from the East (Azuma miyage):
Tales of a Hundred Vaginas (Hyaku bobo gatari), vol. 2 of 2
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), c. 1772–1781
Woodblock-printed book; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003
One of the first known erotic parodies of Japanese supernatural literature was Tales of a Hundred Vaginas, but due to some confusion about the artist and title, its art historical importance has not yet been widely recognized. The primary reason for confusion is that, shortly after it was first published, a bookseller in Edo bundled it with an untitled work by Kitao Shigemasa (1739–1820) and distributed them under the collective title Souvenirs from the East. Shunshō’s and Shigemasa’s styles of draftsmanship are extremely similar, making it difficult to distinguish which volume in the bundle is by which artist, and to further complicate matters, the spurious signature of Suzuki Harunobu (1725?–1770) appears on some pages here. Now that these issues have been resolved, Shunshō’s text will hopefully receive the scholarly attention that it sorely deserves.
The supernatural beings in Tales of a Hundred Vaginas are essentially anthropomorphized genitalia. The artist illustrates them in a humorous, endearingly innocent manner, similar to (and possibly inspired by) those portrayed in the anonymous 18th-century text The Origin of Female Adoration of the Buddha (Honzon memeko nyorai engi), on display elsewhere in this exhibition.
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