User:Jahsonic/In search of the first pornographic image  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The term pornography was coined (see etymology of pornography) in its current meaning by French bibliographer Étienne-Gabriel Peignot (1767–1849) who mentions "sotadic or pornographic" books when describing works that had been censured due to their moral impropriety in his Dictionnaire des livres condamnés au feu (1806).

I say that the book defines pornography in its current meaning, because the word had actually already been coined in 1769 by Restif de la Bretonne in his book on the reform of prostitution, Le pornographe ou la prostitution réformée . Before Restif, the term pornography is only found once in Greek literature, that is to say in the Deipnosophistae by Athenaeus, no one knows if de la Bretonne was aware of Athenaeus's work.

Peignot identifies le P.... des C....; Th.... Ph.... , et L'A.... des D...., traduction du latin de Chorier as belonging to the sotadic or pornographic category.

It is generally acknowledged by current pornologists that the first pornographer was the writer Pietro Aretino.

But what is the first pornographic image? It can be nothing else than the beaver shot, the image of a woman with her legs spread apart, with a full frontal view of her genitalia, the nec plus ultra in frontal nudity, archetypically represented by the Greek Baubo figurines.

But in our 21st century minds, when we think of pornographic images, we think of that 19th century invention, photography. There is something about the erotic photograph which signals immediacy, as if we are present at the scene photographed, as if we partake in the act depicted, an effect which painting or printmaking before it could not hope to achieve.

Illustration: anonymous and unidentified.[1]

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