Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories examines the artistic developments of Japanese erotic art from the ukiyo-e period, dating from the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. Known by the delicate euphemism of Shunga or `spring images', these pictures were hugely popular and admired, and are today highly collectable works of art. This book illustrates major Shunga works from important ukiyo-e masters such as Utamaro, Hokusai, Harunobu, Kunisada, Kuniyoshi and many others. World-renowned scholar Gian Carlo Calza defines these fascinating erotic works in their social, historical and artistic context, providing a broad overview of a subject that is extremely nuanced and intriguing. Beautifully illustrated with over 300 images, including woodblock prints, scrolls and paintings, this book is a perfect introduction to ukiyo-e erotic art.
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Gian Carlo Calza is Professor of East Asian Art History and Director of the International Hokusai Research Centre at the University of Venice. A distinguished authority on Japanese art, he has published many books and articles on several artists, including Phaidon's monograph Hokusai (2003), as well as Phaidon's Ukiyo-e (2005) and Japan Style (2007).Review:
'Sooner or later, someone was going to publish a high-end, no-holes-barred tome on Japanese Shunga. I'm glad it was Phaidon, they have a well-deserved reputation for producing beautiful books on art. And if you want to buy a beautiful book about beautiful books about elegant oriental sex, then this is the one. Even in these straightened times, thirty quid doesn't seem like a lot for such a fabulous production. ... The design is immaculate and the choice of artists exemplary. ... Gian Carlo Calza's extravagant production is delightful because it actually gives us the plates from the pillow books in their entirety, rather than as a selected group of images. Erotic Review 'a testament to the beauty and historical appeal of Japanese erotic art ... With its carefully cropped cover image, its coy title, its handsome binding and general air of art and historical delicacy, this beautiful and astonishing book is an accident waiting to happen. I picture a branch of Waterstone's, in one of the more genteel market towns, and elderly lady with an interest in the arts of the East. Book token in hand, she opens Poem of the Pillow with refined excitement, anticipating familiar Japanese subjects - haughty samurai, putting kabuki actors, and geisha in brocade kimono. Imagine her reaction when she finds all of them, not the conventional poses of the woodblock print, but boffing each other's brains out. ... the most profound and beautiful pornography the world has yet seen ... this book [...] testif[ies] to the growing respectability of shunga, and a renewed appreciation of their beauty, inventiveness and historical interest. ... there are plenty of women on top, much tenderness (expressed in the delicate glances of lovers and the poems and speech bubbles that encircle many of the images) - and much straightforward pleasure, female as well as male. ... Like no other visual art, these pictures dramatise the psychological of reality of intense sexual arousal, when the whole universe, everything that matters, seems to be concentrated in those inches of engorged flesh. After examining a book like this, you will never look at your own, or anyone else's, in quite the same way again. ... [the] attention to the real, the sense of everyday life being lived in the background, [...] elevates these pictures from the level of masturbation aids to the status of true art; and that mouth-watering quality shared by the best Japanese prints - of a visible world made palpable, almost edible, charged with human tenderness, and the joyful relish of being alive.' The Times
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