Kinbaku Part II – Seiu Ito and his Rope Bondage Fetish

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Drawing by Seiu Ito

Back in 2012 I wrote a piece on Kinbaku, having spent an evening with the very charming Midori, an exponent of sexual bondage and rope play… we had dinner. At the time, I wasn’t really familiar with the art of the Japanese painter and photographer Seiu Ito, but I have recently been looking at some of his work and recognise that he occupies the link between modern rope bondage and the art of Taiso Yoshitoshi which was discussed in the 2012 article. For a brief history  of Japanese rope art and modern rope bondage, I suggest you follow the link to that article. The drawing above shows what a talented draftsman Ito was, but I have been very struck by some of his woodblock prints which have recently been illustrated online.

 

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Seiu Ito ‘Kinbaku – The Art of Bondage’

 

 

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Seiu Ito ‘Kinbaku – The Art of Bondage’

The two prints illustrated above show Ito’s debt to Yoshitoshi and to certain tropes of traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In these prints and drawings there is concealed a persistent Japanese fear of strong and emotional women. The dishevelled hair and the facial expressions of the women in Ito’s work also echo the drawing of ‘demon women‘ popular in the late nineteenth century. This was a period, after the Meiji revolution, when women appeared in popular woodblock prints as both strong, independent and powerful… sometimes positive and benevolent, sometimes negative and malign. Of course, I’m thinking here not only of Yoshitioshi’s various demon women but also of Kunichika’s great series of 1876, 36 Good and Evil Beauties.

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Kunichika ’36 Good and Evil Beauties’ 1876

Ito’s work is from a far darker place than Kunichika’s perhaps, mild anxiety about liberated Edo. Ito himself worked as a photographer and illustrator and is perhaps best known for his images of bondage which used his wife as a model. Famously, Ito had her suspended upside down whilst pregnant in order to imitate the pose of Yoshitoshi’s famous print of the The Lonely House, from September 1885. It is really a privilege to be able to show an extremely rare copy of the photograph that Ito took of his wife in the early 1920’s next to the print that inspired it… (and a whole genre of sexual fetish), a first I think. I am indebted to the private collection of kinbaku from which the extraordinary find originates.

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Sahara Kise by Ito 1923

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Yoshitoshi, The Lonely House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no doubt that the Japanese have long ago perfected the art of rope tying. The fetishisation of the practice though is clearly the work of the little known illustrator Seiu Ito. His debt in turn is to the great innovations of Yoshitoshi who preceded him by several decades. I am keen to assemble still more of this story… it seems that Ito was also at the very root of a great raft of early twentieth century fetish images – not just the  extension of Japanese tying (Hojo Jutsu for those interested), but also genres as diverse as sailor suits and busty schoolgirls. Do look out for ‘Kinbaku Part Three’ in the near future !

 

About toshidama

Toshidama Gallery sells original nineteenth century Japanese woodblock prints. We source our prints from around the world and only stock original, authenticated works of museum quality.
This entry was posted in Hell Courtesan, Japanese prints, japanese woodblock prints, Kinbaku, Kunichika, Seiu Ito, ukiyo-e, ukiyo-e art, yoshitoshi and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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