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21 October 2009 - 31 January 2010, Palazzo Reale - Milan

Shunga. Art and Eros in Japan’s Edo Period.

The temporary exhibition entitled “Shunga. Art and Eros in Japan’s Edo Period” is part of the unique project “Nippon. Tra mito e realtà". The project is sponsored by the City of Lugano and encompasses the entire city, starting in its most prestigious exhibition centres and offering an exhibition route that investigates the most interesting aspects of art and photography from the mid-nineteenth century to the present time, as well as the ancient traditions of Japan.

Foto gallery

The Exhibition

The exhibition has been supervised by the curator of the Museum of Cultures Günther Giovannoni and constitutes the third stage of the so-called “Altrarti” cycle. It presents a series of shunga; a Japanese term meaning “representations of spring” and defining the erotic prints which reached the height of fame during the period of Tokugawa’s shogunate between 1603 and 1867 AD.

Shunga form one of the liveliest expressions of aesthetic and ethical reflection on the brevity and transience of life. This reflection conveys the values of the bourgeois class from the great cities of that time. Merchants, craftsmen, doctors and artists were excluded from political power. However, they were economically thriving and therefore claimed a hedonistic conception of life, which was in sharp contrast to the rigid neo-Confucian morality of the samurai rulers. 
These prints materialize the worldview of those who ridiculed the conservatism of the political power by representing luxury, parties, theatre shows and life within the ‘houses of pleasure’, where the bourgeoisie could enjoy the company of women skilled in the art of entertainment and of love. 

The selection contains 62 artworks, including xylographs and printed volumes and is presented at the Heleneum. It exhibits the works of the most important authors pertaining to the Shunga evolution, from Koryusai to Kunimori, and other artists such as Kiyonaga, Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige.

The exhibition catalogue (175 pages) is on sale at the museum’s bookshop and comprises pictures of the exhibits and various critical essays. 

Warning: this exhibition is for ADULT audiences only. 

For further information:

Shunga. Arte ed Eros nel Giappone del periodo Edo

a cura di Marco Fagioli & Günther Giovannoni
Edizioni Mazzotta, Milano 2009
Altrarti 3
Chf 45.-
ISBN 978-88-202-1934-