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Poem of the Pillow and other stories: by Utamaro, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi and other artists of the Floating World [Hardcover]

Gian Carlo Calza , Studioarte srl (Gian Carlo Calza Co.) , Imogen Forster
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 29.95
Price: 23.96 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jun 2010
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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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press (1 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714849960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714849966
  • Product Dimensions: 28.2 x 21.3 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 230,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


‘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

About the Author

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 on Hokusai (2003), as well as Phaidon's Ukiyo-e (2005) and Japan Style (2007).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Introduction To Shunga 25 July 2013
By Miss S
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am now the proud owner of this wonderful heavy - weight beautifully presented book of many clear and colorful, full, page after page of Japanese erotic arts .

I begin with delivery and packaging . It took only a few hours for this encyclopedia weight book to be sitting in perfect condition on my sideboard . Delivered in a big square box with plenty of paper packing from amazon , then the book itself encased in clear wrapping you tear off to get to your all bound (as a wedding album would be ) with clear plastic for protection, i was so pleased to see that , as this is a book you will really treasure ! and want to keep as perfect as your wedding albums , it saved me all the effort of taking it to be covered - many thanks. In the back of the book inside cover there is a *free print* , you can take out if you wish and i do , to frame ..a real treat !! and the treats just carry on ...

The cover itself is a delight , you just feel so tempted to slip[ off the plastic flexi cover and stroke your hands gently over the top of it to appreciate the lovely illustration and texture , seems to be embossed silk!on that your shunga i wont ruin the pleasure of saying what that is ..

There are 463 pages in total and every page is a delight full of info relating to the art your looking at , ref at your fingertips in the back of the book and full and informative write ups of the art your about to view in the sections .

Japanese art/s have always fascinated me , maybe its because i was born in the month of the cherry blossom and that i appreciate exquisite beauty in all forms and Japanese shunga should be appreciated by everyone ,whatever age they are from young to old .
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful selections 5 Dec 2010
By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
Shunga, the traditional Japanese "images of spring", offer endless variety in their depictions of erotic interludes. Different examples feature humor, drama, affection, elegance, or wild abandon, often in combinations. For many reasons, including social nudity in public baths, mere undress held little erotic interest. As a result, shunga imagery often emphasizes rich clothing or other trappings of the pleasure quarters. This tradition carries other non-Western elements as well, including references to Japanese myth and history. Then there are visual conventions that might startle a Western eye, not least the mammoth exaggerations of his and her genitals favored by so many artists.

Calza presents a gorgeous cross-section of this erotic tradition. Nearly two dozen chapters sample the works of individual artists, very roughly in chronological order. These include famous artists, like Utamaro and Hokusai, as well as images by lesser-known masters. A brief intro summarizes each artist's life, when known, but after that the pictures speak for themselves. This organization lets the reader contrast the styles of different artists and eras, and to understand what make each artist's contribution unique. Thorough end matter describes each work, and offers a helpful glossary, index, and bibliography.

A few points might deserve clarification. First, although the title claims "Poem of the Pillow and other stories," the stories themselves do not appear here, except for vague narrative within the pictures. Second, Amazon's description states that the book is 384 pages long. My copy has pages numbered to 463. Also, this book comes with a heavy plastic slip-cover, something sure to help defend the book against its eager readers. The color printing captures subtleties of color beautifully, but one might ask more opacity in the pages' paper. On the whole, I recommend this as a lovely and informative addition to any collection of Eastern or erotic art.

-- wiredweird
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Unique Images 30 Sep 2011
By dacios - Published on Amazon.com
In the West, the nude form was held in high regard as an object of athleticism, grace and beauty from antiquity forward. But while the naked body was admired, depictions of the act of sex was seen as sinful and corrupting and hence poorly represented historically. The opposite situation prevailed in Japan, as the Greco-Roman exultation of the nude was unknown and sex was not associated with grave moral sin. Thus, we have the art-form known as Shunga, or Japanese erotic prints, that proliferated during the golden age of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. In Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories Gian Carlo Calza masterfully overviews this fascinating topic.

The book covers a period from about 1660-1860 which lets the reader see the development of the art form in addition to seeing the evolution of Japanese fashion over this time. Twenty three artists are covered from the little known Kabun Master to the very famous Katsushika Hokusai whose The Great Wave off Kanagawa probably hangs in about one in every four dorm rooms in the United States. Each chapter starts with a small inset, which is a very clever design that lets you easily flip back and forth between images, that gives a brief biography of the artist and then puts his work in context. In addition, some of the more important works are examined briefly. This format does a good job on introducing the topic of Shunga but, given such a broad overview details are necessarily lacking. However, there are literally hundreds of very high quality images in this book and flipping through the list of works in the back, it is clear that many of these images are very rare. So, unless you are an academic specializing in Shunga, it would otherwise be very difficult to see these works. This is a beautiful book of art history that I highly recommend.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My opinion 9 Sep 2012
By sarah perez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is exactly what i was hoping it would be. Only took two weeks to get it and it contains many beautiful and intricate artworks by the best ukiyo-e artists of medieval Japan. It even came with a free print! I recommend this book for any shunga art or ukiyo-e art fan!
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poem of the Pillow 25 Oct 2012
By artbook buyer - Published on Amazon.com
Book was in excellent condition and arrived quickly. Gave three stars because the content of the book was just average to a little above.
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