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Famous Shunga Masterpiece.

Hokusai - c.1814.  " Diving Girl With Octopus "

Hokusai Katsushika 葛飾北斎 ( 1760 ~1849 )




Extremely rare Japanse color woodblock Hokusai (1760-1849). Size: 6 1/2" x 8 3/4" inches.
Date:   c.1814. Fine (early) impression, color and condition. Very minor soiling. Full size.
Title:  "Diving Girl Ravished by Octopuses". A.k.a. "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife".
Series:  "Kinoe no komatsu" (Languishing for Love/ Young Pine Saplings).

"In Hokusai's most famous shunga, a large octopus performs cunnilungus on a woman abalone diver or ama, and a smaller one, perhaps his offspring, kisses her and fondles one of her nipples with a tentacle. This print is testimony to how our interpretation of an image can be distorted when seen in isolation and without understanding the text. A recent study by Danielle Talerico (2001: 24-42) explains that this image was initially considered by Western collectors and scholars like Edmund de Goncourt, Jack Hillier and Richard Lane to represent a rape scene. Talerico's study shows that an Edo audience would have associated the image with the story of Tamatori. In the legend, the abalone diver Tamatori sacrifices her life to save the Emperor by cutting open her breast, where she hides the jewel she has stolen from the Sea-Dragon King in his underwater Dragon Palace.The Sea-Dragon King is accompanied by all nature of sea creatures, including octopuses. The dialogues between the two creatures and the diver express mutual sexual enjoyment (see Talerico 2001: 37, for a complete translation)". (p. 161 in 'Japanese Erotic Fantasies' by C. Uhlenbeck and M. Winkel)

"This illustration, of a woman with two octopuses, twin incubi, has lost none of his power to disturb (...) Despite the considerable amount that has been written about this work, all attempts to interpret and elucidate it end up by revealing more about the writer than about the original work. It remains one of those designs which require neither advocacy nor analysis in order to work its mysterious effect". (p.249 in 'Shunga, the Erotic Art of Love in Japan' by Tom and Mary Evans)

"...On the right, a large octopus ravishes the girl with androit cunnilungus, while a smaller octopus (his son?) assists earnestly at the left. Yet however bizarre the concept, the effect is neither comic nor pornographic; in this fantasy of a passionate shell diver, we discover a new facet of Hokusai's genius and a consummate work of erotica".  (Richard Lane - 'Love's Labour's Found: The Erotic Art of Hokusai)

"The most beautiful Japanese erotic print that I know is truly frightening: it is of a Japanese woman mounted by an octopus; with its tentacles, the horrible beast sucks the tips of her breasts and rummages in her mouth, while its head drinks from her lower parts. The almost superhuman expression of agony and sorrow - which convulses this long, graceful female figure with aquiline nose - and the hysterical joy - which emanates at the same time from her forehead, from those eyes closed as in death - are admirable".  (J.K. Huysman - 1889)

" ...a terrifying plate...the nude form of a woman, swooning with pleasure..." ( Edmond de Goncourt )


Perhaps Hokusai's Octopus design is the most coveted erotic print in the history of Art !

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