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.