Two Lovers

Hishikawa Moronobu 菱川師宣 Japanese

Not on view

Moronobu, the earliest ukiyo-e master, was trained in his family's textile business. He used his knowledge of fabric in the design of his prints, which were the first to explore the theme of beautiful women. He adapted a calligraphic style to black-and-white woodblocks, creating expression by manipulating line.

This print, a leaf from an album of shunga, or erotica, shows Moronubu's ability to suggest human sensibilities through inanimate objects. Contrasting the curves of the costumes with the straight lines of the architectural setting, he portrays a woman and her lover, whose bodies—and robes—are beginning to intertwine. Behind them, seeming to float in space because of the artificially high viewpoint, is a cast-off uchikake (outer robe). The sleeves lie parallel, reinforcing the idea of the couple's intimacy, as does the association of the stringed instrument and the sword.

Two Lovers, Hishikawa Moronobu 菱川師宣 (Japanese, 1618–1694), Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Japan

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