The British Museum in the United Kingdom will present “Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art”, a collection of 19th-century art so explicit that it was banned more than one hundred years ago in Japan.
It is the first time these 170 erotic paintings, sets of prints and illustrated books with text are displayed in public. The images include a woman being pleasured by an octopus, Samurai warriors visiting their young male Kabuki actor lovers as well as two women enjoying sex with a dildo, the international press reports.
The exhibition will open in October and will be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. All the visitors who are aged under 16 will have to enter the exhibition together with an adult.
Shunga paintings had wide appeal, especially in the 19th century. We know it had a top, elite audience because the prints were extremely expensive, costing thousands of pounds. This was the top end of the market. There was also a mass audience for the illustrated books with dozens of illustrations in several volumes,” said Tim Clark, the curator of the exhibition.
“The ambition of shunga is much, much wider,” says Clark. “It talks about sexuality generally in society. It is meant to appeal as much to married couples, to courting couples, to people who want to use it for stimulation or seduction. It was certainly used as a sex manual.”