Dreams of Desire 26 (Pictures of the Floating World)

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife-Hokusai 1814
Hokusai’s  ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) woodcut design for the three volume collection of  erotic tales Young Pines from 1814 is the most famous example of shunga (pictures of spring; spring being a euphemism for sex) created by the one of the masters of Japanese art from the Edo period.

Depicting a shell diver being caressed intimately by two octopi, the surrounding text tells of the mutual pleasure experienced by both the woman and the octopi. However when the image was first seen in the West it was without a sufficient understanding of the accompanying text and critics, including Edmond de Goncourt interpreted the design as representing a non consensual act.

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife influenced Felicien Rops, Rodin and Pablo Picasso who painted his own version in 1903, and along with other shuga shaped the perception of the exotically other Far East as an ultra-sophisticated, decadent playground, where eroticism had been refined by every possible means into a deviant art-form. The ultimate expression of this Orientalizing tendency  can be found in Octave Mirbeau’s opiated fantasy of a mythic China in Le Jardin des supplices (The Torture Garden).  In Japan it has been hugely influential and has spawned a whole sub-genre within anime and manga.


40 thoughts on “Dreams of Desire 26 (Pictures of the Floating World)

    1. There is nothing new under the sun, I agree it seems like a stupid idea yet it does have deep roots. Thank you for the like and follower and like, I hope you like the others in the dreams of desire series which is pretty much what it says…mostly concerning surrealism

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve seen this image a few times, and I’m fascinated by it every time. As you mentioned in your comments, kinks are nothing new. I wonder if many people in America would be disgusted by the image, but it was created back in 1814! Along with stories, too. Quite a difference in cultures.


    1. I am sure people would be disgusted and it is undoubtedly a shocking image however the skill of the execution cannot be denied. The famous image of the waves is by the same artist who was drawing from 5 but commented that he didn’t produce any work of value until he had turned 70.Thank you for the like I hope you check out my other posts and I will be sure to look at your site

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you… For some reason it has turned into a site mainly about surrealism and a bit of symbolism with occasion pieces on occultism, oh and a few original stories. Thanks for the support please feel free to disagree with any interpretations, I make it up as I go.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d never seen this before. I’ve got to hand it to you, you’re really upping the ante lately on the shock value of your posts! Stephen King would be proud of you. (He’s a big fan of shock value.) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you as always…there many things I share with Stephen King apart from the desire to shock, where we differ is he has talent, ideas and success but I like his fertile mind and his modesty

        Liked by 1 person

      2. King might have the success, but that doesn’t mean YOU don’t have the talent and ideas. King deserves his place in literary history; but so do many other people. Don’t count yourself out 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a very interesting read. I am not an expert in this but I have a few friends who have published poetry and short prose fiction in this genre. This kind of erotic fiction with illustration is part of a rich cultural history and most children who leave school have seen it in some form or other as part of formal curriculum. Context is everything, is it not? I have even seen file folders with some of that woodblock art and poetry printed on it, sold in stationery stores. I feel that the illustration depicts the woman’s expected submissive role in the relationship (it is expected that she will say ‘yes”) while the octopuses symbolise an indirect approach to seduction. Euphemisms are used as foreplay and the act is the highlight. Let’s just say that the octopuses have a better idea about technique.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the illumination as to how it is received in Japanese culture. Maybe I made to much as to how Japanese art was received in the West and its influence on the decadents but I am on surer ground there, as I am certainly no expert, I just admire the formal beauty of the woodblocks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it is important to examine the reaction to art across cultures. I am not surprised that this has sort of influenced some myths about the culture. Not that I am in a position to comment or say what is true/false. I have seen much more explicit Kama Sutra like illustrations.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. While I boggle at cultural differences between Japanese and western erotica, I do love ukiyo-e and have seen a number of woman + creature images, including the wonders of tentacle p0rn. Some days they inspire me, others they concern me re sexism. But such is life and art and the minds and hands that make it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. That is strange. I read a short sci fi book about unicorns that this brings to mind. Though that was not consensual and seemed more gruesome. It was called Lovecraft fan fiction in the comments- maybe you’ve read him. I haven’t.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Now that’s the strange part. It seems like it would cause some issues but maybe his words were just so good that they made everyone like it. Have you read a translation?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. So my gut reaction is eww! But at the same time, it’s impossible to look away. The diver is enraptured. 1814!!! That’s amazing. My Asian acquaintances are supremely conservative- at least publicly. So this truly is fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, my desires posts are quite short, and I am no expert in Japanese art. It is unusual and it did have an impact in western art with the fantasy of the Far East. Plus I wanted to mention Mirabeau

        Liked by 1 person

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