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[Image from 'The Floating Bridge of Heaven']

[Detail of color woodblock from Ukiyo-E Exhibition]

The Floating Bridge of Heaven (Ama no ukihashi)
Attributed to Yanagawa Shigenobu (1787 - 1832)
Color woodblock, from illustrated book, vol. 1 (of 3), 1830

From the very beginnings of Ukiyo-e, the "Floating World" school of art, which matured during the second half of the seventeenth century, explicitly erotic scenes had a central place. These scenes are generally known today by the polite euphemism, "spring picture" (shunga). More than three thousand shunga titles are said to have been produced during their heyday of two centuries or so, ca. 1657 - 1868. Many depict a kind of sexual utopia, showing lovers with exaggerated genitals and blissful expressions, surrounded by gorgeous flowing fabrics and sometimes elaborate interiors. Japanese shunga are acclaimed for their high aesthetic level as some of the world's greatest erotic art. (From The Erotic Art of Ukiyo-E, the catalogue of the exhibition.)

This image is a detail from a color woodblock showing courtiers making love in an upstairs room with the blinds raised to let in the breeze and also to permit a view of a cherry tree in full bloom.

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