Erotic Art: Stories Of Scandalous Artworks

Erotic Art: Stories Of Scandalous Artworks

Author: Elena Agnese Sorrentino
Translated by: Valeria Frezza

The History Of Eroticism

She is neither a Venus, nor a bathing Diana, nor a Susanna chased by the elders: she is a woman proud to show her body. Haughty in her gaze, with an unbridled sensuality, she seems to conceal her pubis with her hand, while instead Manet’s Olympia boasts an overt attitude of invitation. “Critics huddle like at the Morgue in front of Manet’s Olympia. Such a low art does not even deserve to be blamed.”, a reporter of the time writes on the newspaper La Presse on the 28th of May 1863. Exhibited at the Salon of 1865, Manet’s artwork is instantly attacked by very harsh critiques. The reason lies behind the fact that the artist took off any veil of justification from the female figure to explain her nudity.

Ready in the daytime to condemn the scandal of an uncovered ankle, the same bourgeoisie would go cast a sidelong glance at the Origine du Monde by Gustave Courbet in the boudoir of the eccentric Turkish-Egyptian diplomat Khalil-Bey three years later: one of the most wanted paintings in the world, because it proposed an unveiled female sexuality.

These scandalous works speak of eroticism. Trying to define eroticism means entering an uncertain territory, whose limit risks to stray in vulgarity and pornography, which have little to do with Eros. Does the calendar of Olivero Toscani ring a bell? Twelve months with twelve close-ups of male and female genitalia. Erotic is a glance, a gesture, an attitude, like the half-closed lips of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Erotic is what stimulates desire. The term “seduction” comes from Latin “seducere”, i.e. “se ducere”, which means lead to oneself. When someone manages to draw attention on him or herself, to such an extent that they become the object of desire of another, an erotic situation occurs.


Erotic Artworks On

A witty China ink by Alberto Martini perfectly describes an erotic situation. A dressed-up voyeur moves away the clothes of a woman who is lying in bed, showing her private parts. A small drawing, magnetic with a morbid vein, of the eccentric Italian artist, friends with the likewise eccentric marquise Casati and Marinetti.

The erotic drawings made by Gustav Klimt became very popular, no longer relegated to private cabinets or dives. Exactly one year after the artist’s death, in 1919, the Gilhofer and Ranschburg, with the help of a technician Max Jaffé specialized in collotypes, printed a beautiful collection named Fünfundzwanzig Handzeichnungen. All the portrayed women, in lustful attitudes of self-eroticism and lesbian love, were welcomed by the Viennese high society. Klimt explores the female universe with sensitivity, incredible psychological depth, and indisputable technical ability.

An opposite faith befell the Austrian Egon Schiele, who was convicted with the accusation of corrupting a minor and, after his pornographic drawings were found in his apartment, he was arrested and detained for three days. His declared cohabitation with the model Wally Neuzil and his paintings of minor girls kept him at the margins of society. Almost 100 years after the creation of the original drawings (1910-1918), Anthèse published the series of colored lithographs Erotica. In these prints, Schiele represented the rawness of sex, made up of extremely thin, worn out, and disjointed nudes.

Another series of erotic drawings does not leave room for imagination, and often brushes against pornography. They were made by Marcel Vertès (Hungary, 1895-1961), the French costume designer who won the Academy Award for the best costumes for the film Moulin Rouge of 1952. Worthy of mention are also the precious prints of the Bible Noir Quo vadis domine? (Parigi, Edition Privat, 1921) by R. L. Delechamps, with erotic desecrating scenes in interior spaces of houses, with brothel and orgy scenes of drunken monks. The prints of the collection Paroles Peintes Suite by Sebastián Matta, where ectoplasms have genitalia and morbid details, look funny and playful. Take a look also at Shu Takahashi’s wonderful prints, with sober forms that recall floral and sexual details, though in an almost imperceptible way.

Find these and many more erotic “scandalous” artworks on!

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