SHUNGA: THE EROTIC PRINTS OF JAPAN. Shunga or as literally translated “Spring Pictures” are a genre of woodblock prints that depict the entire gamut of sensual and sexual pleasures. To fully understand the unabashed nature of shunga it is helpful to understand the society which inspired and nurtured it—a pleasure bent culture of Edo’s notorious demi-monde. In its heyday this culture had engendered a fabulous city of eroticism unmatched by any in the West---the legendary Yoshiwara. Within the confines of its sumptuous quarters, courtesans of stunning beauty and exquisite sensibility elevated the gratification of physical desire to an art. The shunga print was both the natural outgrowth and the fullest expression of this hedonism, and as such, mirrored an endless range of physical passions. Yet, although shunga fulfilled a major purpose in the Yoshiwara, its illustrations often serving to train inexperienced courtesans as well as to arouse prospective clients, it also played a central role in the education of newlyweds. In many families it was the custom to give brides shunga albums, or “pillow books” that were treasured by each generation and often passed down from mother to daughter. Aside from its practical usefulness, Japanese erotica was also valued for its beauty. The shunga print is technically and historically an integral part of ukiyo-e. Virtually all the great masters of ukiyo-e felt that designing good shunga was vital to their artistic stature and considered its production to be a piece with the rest of their work. Most shunga were not signed therefore the name of the artist is always attributed.