Condition: Excellent

Erotica Netsuke of Two Faces

The netsuke is a personal decoration, a handling piece, dating back to the 17th century Japan. It was a well known tradition to buy a Shunga for newly married couples, and was typically used as a sexual guide for the children of wealthy families in Japan. Here you see the combination of male and female with a subtle reference bodhisattva like-male, with his elongated ear (on one side of the netsuke), and the female hair dress on the other. From the top you see two different hair treatments and the himotoshi (hole for the cord for attachment). The back-side is self explanatory, and has a mark on the left cheek, which we believe to say coupling or joining. Artist is unknown, and not signed. Age: 20th century piece. Material: Fruitwood. Condition: The carving is not as refined as those in ivory or horn, but the overall condition is good. Dimensions: 1 3/8”w x7/8”d x 1 ½”h (3.5cm x 2.25cm x 3.8cm)

Historical Information:

Shunga is a Japanese term for erotic art. Translated literally, Shunga means “picture of spring” (Spring being a euphemism for sex). In the Edo period it was enjoyed by rich and poor, men and women, and despite being out of favor with the Shogunate, carried very little stigma. Shunga themes appear in print form, (woodblocks, scrolls, and panel floor screens), textiles, (primarily worn by men), carvings, (netsuke and shop signs), and on porcelain and pottery.

Shunga was popular with all the ukiyo-e artists, as it was more profitable than “normal” art. Few Shunga pieces however bear signatures or seals. There was a time when they were subject to official censorship. Classifying Shunga as a kind of pornography can be misleading in this respect. They were used for sex education of young men and women.


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