Tokyo: 1851. Set of 12 woodblock prints in colors on handmade, laid mulberry paper, 6 3/4 x 10 1/4 inches (170 x 258 mm), printed in Ka-ei 4 (1851). Each print with minor handling wear, otherwise in excellent condition with bright and fresh color, and with details printed in silver ink. The images themselves contain several illusive characters indicating the publisher which are obfuscated by figures, as intended. Presented loose, as issued. A fine set.
The astrological commentary print has a large and meandering blind stamp with a bird and palm frond motif. This print lists various phrases concerning the Twelve Zodiac Animals as historically counted in Japan, and appears to include erotic commentary on the traits of people born under each of the twelve signs.
These Shunga images were issued in books that paralleled (in an erotic fashion) the 52 chapters of Genji Monogatari, or Tales of Prince Genji. From the series, Seishi Ai-oi Genji, Genji refers to the protagonist in a 10th century classical Japanese novel. The publishers who issued these series (which would have been illegal at the time of publication) would issue "how-to" books which contained hints and indications as to who the publishers were, but would only include a minimum of information to procure subsequent editions. This series was tremendously successful, and was published from Temmei 6 (1786) until Genji 1 (1864). Kunisada is well known for publishing excellent, unsigned Shunga. In general, he is considered to have been the most prolific Hanga artist across all genres, having produced 35,000 in his lifetime (Shunga representing the smallest percentage). After his death, his estate supported his heirs and descendants for generations.
Item number: 506