Images From the Floating World


My grandfather collected Japanese prints. Not just any Japanese prints but rare and valuable ones, including the erotic and what some might regard as the downright pornographic. The risqué items were locked away. When  I learned of their existence, I was led to believe that one day I would be allowed to see them. I was to exercise patience, which, my grandfather told me, was a virtue. As if to conceal further the items that would eventually be revealed, he made a great show of familiarising me with the more chaste items in his collection. Even at a young age, I could see that there was something admirable about them. In 1957, at Christie’s in London, he successfully bid for the artist’s proof of Koryusai’s The Courtesan Morokoshi of Echizen-ya With Her Child, Attendant Standing By. Only when I was older did I appreciate its swirling lines and its other pictorial qualities. But what amused me at first was the depiction of the ‘child’ as a little bald man. Later, and in breach of my grandfather’s stricture that the image was uncomplicated and not to be interpreted otherwise, I think Koryusai was saying something about male-female relationships and that the ‘child’ was really the ‘man’ it would become, forever a dependant plaything in the hands of she who had given birth to it. After all, the geishas did wield a kind of power over their swooning and often corpulent admirers. read more