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.