The courtesan is pretending to be the spirit of the mandarin duck (the symbol of togetherness). Most shunga were not signed therefore the artist is attributed.
About the artist
Born to the well-known calligrapher Shigeharu, Eisen worked as a painter, printmaker and illustrator in Edo. As a young man, he studied Kano painting with Hakkeisai before pursuing illustration and printmaking under Eizan. It is said that Eisen was a brothel owner and held the reputation of a debaucher and a man of questionable personal conduct. Though he completed masterful nature studies and landscapes, he is best known for his beautiful women. In addition to his artistic oeuvre, Eisen authored Zoku Ukiyo-e Ruiko, an edited account of the history of ukiyo-e.
As ukiyo-e achieved an unprecedented popularity in the 1800s, bijin (beautiful women) were the stars of this period. Eisen’s beauties present a particular type of femininity: willful, self-assertive, voluptuous and vivacious. Balancing bold compositions with intricate kimono designs, Eisen’s bijin-ga bear a quiet sensuality.
No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. - Oscar Wilde