日本語版はこちらThe Iconographic Origins of Sarah and Octopus
Sarah and Octopus / Seventh Heaven (2001) was indirectly inspired by The Great Woven Cap (Taishokan), a Japanese folktale dating to the Nanbokuchō period (1336–1392). The legend describes how, while searching for abalone, a female diver (J. ama) discovers a precious gem, decides to abscond with it, and in so doing, incurs the wrath of the Dragon King of the Sea, his octopus servant, and his other minions. As a popular subject of ukiyo-e prints and woodblock-printed books during the Edo period (1615–1868), the story came to be known as The Tale of the Taking of the Jewel (Tamatori monogatari).
The most infamous depiction of an ama diver and an octopus—and, for that matter, the most recognizable work in the entire history of Japanese erotic art—is an image from the third volume of the woodblock-printed text Old True Sophisticates of the Club of Delightful Skills (J. Kinoe no komatsu, 1814), designed by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). Around the figures in that image (now commonly known as “Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”), Hokusai included a humorous conversation. As he performs cunnilingus upon the woman, the octopus declares his intention of ravishing her before confining her in the Dragon King’s palace. The diver protests at first, but her objections quickly give way to fits of ecstasy.
Left: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861)
The Princess Taking the Jewel from the Dragon King (Ryūgū tamatori hime no zu), detail
Woodblock print, ink and color on paper
Gift of Victor S. K. Houston in honour of his wife, Pinao Brickwood Houston, 1941