“Lovers in a Carp Streamer - For the Month of May”
On this design:
"...A familiar subject in Kyõsai's oeuvre is Shõki the demon queller chasing a demon (oni). One of his finest 'Shoki' compositions is a painting housed in the collection of the Linden-Museum Stuttgart which shows the demon queller following an oni, who is hiding in the mouth of a paper carp streamer (koinobori). In a shunga version of this theme Kyõsai also depicts Shõki in pursuit of the demon, but in a comic twist the oni has been replaced by a couple making love (cat. no. 88a). This small koban-size print is from a series of twelve images entitled 'Flower Calendar (Hanagoyomi)' , in which each sheet represents one of the twelve months and includes text by an unidentified author. The association of the carp streamer with the Boy's Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (May) and the fact that Shõki is known as a guardian of children are the first clues that this composition is linked to May.
Additional hints lie in the dialogue inscribed on the sliding door and the wall in the background. It begins to the far right with the man exclaiming 'Good, good, superb!' (yokutte, yokutte, kotaerarenehe) and includes the number five and the character dai (long). This indicates that the print was published in 1870, a year when May was a 'long' month (30 days, a 'short' month is 29 days). The young woman then tells the man to wait. He asks why, and his words are followed by the number thirty. This is an allusion to the 'Blue Warrior Festival' (Kõshinmachi), which in 1870 took place on the thirtieth day of May. The man explains that he finds the carp streamer a cosy place to make love. But the woman repeats that he should wait, using the expression 'han-goshõ' (goshõ means 'pardon me'; han or 'half' was added for the sake of punning) and the number twenty-nine. In 1870, the twenty-ninth day of May marked mid-year (han-geshõ), or more precisley the eleventh day after the summer solstice, and the author creates a wordplay with the terms han-goshõ and han-geshõ. The final words of the couple, integrating the number three, state that they do not like the rainy season. This is another allusion to May, as the beginning of the rainy season (nyûbai) fell on the third day of the month". (excerpt from the article 'Meiji Shunga: The Comic Genius of Kawanabe Kyõsai ' by Oikawa Shigeru)
Reference: Ill.88a on p.219 in 'Japanese Erotic Fantasies' by C. Uhlenbeck and M. Winkel.
Kyõsai is one of the greatest shunga masters and his erotic work is rarely seen on the art market !