Katsushika Hokusū 葛飾北嵩 (active c. 1800s–1830s)
A Rural Couple amidst their Crops
(Hatake no naka no inaka no danjo)

From the series The Safflower Princess (Suetsumuhana)
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), c. 1817
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

According to 19th-century shunga artists, one hallmark of a successful erotic composition was the way in which the figures transposed their relative positions. In his depiction of a couple carousing in the midst of a field, Katsushika Hokusū (active c. 1800s–1830s) shows the woman sitting in the man’s lap, and since both figures are facing the viewer, the woman appears to be in front of the man. The woman arches her back and leans to one side, however, so her upper torso is in fact behind the man’s head.

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