18th century erotica
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The 18th century saw a veritable barrage of erotic imagery and writings in many varieties. The 18th century is the age of the Enlightenment, Rococo, Neoclassicism, the discovery of Pompeii and the Herculaneum, rising feminism, Romanticism in England, sodomitical subcultures in European metropoli, the dandy, the French Revolution, Fanny Hill, Casanova and the Marquis de Sade. The terms pornography and erotica were not yet attested in the English language, but French writer Restif de la Bretonne had already used the term pornography in his 1769 work Le Pornographe.
The discovery of the erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum led to a radical reappraisal of the classics and engendered the first secret museums, the magnitude of erotic writing similarly saw the arrival of the private case.
Sir William Hamilton, Charles Townley, Richard Payne Knight, Vivant Denon, Baron d'Hancarville were the first to show an interest in the phallic worship of ancient erotica. In print, this resulted in the fanciful Veneres et Priapi, uti observantur in gemmis antiquis (1771, d'Hancarville), The Worship of Priapus (1786, Knight) and L'Oeuvre priapique (1793, Vivant Denon).
During the Enlightenment, many of the French free-thinkers began to exploit pornography as a medium of social criticism and satire. Libertine pornography was a subversive social commentary and often targeted the Catholic Church and general attitudes of sexual repression. The market for the mass-produced, inexpensive pamphlets soon became the bourgeoisie, making the upper class worry, as in England, that the morals of the lower class and weak-minded would be corrupted since women, slaves and the uneducated were seen as especially vulnerable during that time. The stories and illustrations (sold in the galleries of the Palais Royal, along with services of prostitutes) were often anti-clerical and full of misbehaving priests, monks and nuns, a tradition that in French pornography continued into the 20th century. In the period leading up to the French Revolution, pornography was also used as political commentary; Marie Antoinette was often targeted with fantasies involving orgies, lesbian activities and the paternity of her children, and rumors circulated about the supposed sexual inadequacies of Louis XVI.
During and after the Revolution, the famous works of the Marquis de Sade were printed. They were often accompanied by illustrations and served as political commentary for their author.
The English answer to this was Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (later abridged and renamed Fanny Hill) written in 1748 by John Cleland. While the text satirised the literary conventions and fashionable manners of 18th century England, it was more scandalous for depicting a woman, the narrator, enjoying and even reveling in sexual acts with no dire moral or physical consequences. The text is hardly explicit as Cleland wrote the entire book using euphemisms for sex acts and body parts, employing 50 different ones just for the term penis. Two small earthquakes were credited to the book by the Bishop of London and Cleland was arrested and briefly imprisoned, but Fanny Hill continued to be published and is one of the most reprinted books in the English language. However, it was not legal to own this book in the United States until 1963 and in the United Kingdom until 1970.
An early pioneer of the publication of erotic works in England was Edmund Curll (1675-1747). The rise of the novel in 18th century England provided a new medium for erotica. One of the most famous in this new genre was Fanny Hill by John Cleland. This book set a new standard in literary smut and has often been adapted for the cinema in the 20th century.
The rise of the novel in 18th century England provided a new medium for erotica. One of the most famous in this new genre was Fanny Hill by John Cleland. This book set a new standard in literary smut and has often been adapted for the cinema in the 20th century.
French writers at this time also wrote erotica. A famous example is Thérèse Philosophe (1748) by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens which describes a girl's inititation into the secrets of both philosophy and sex. Another example is The Lifted Curtain or Laura's Education, about a young girl's sexual initiation by her father, written by the Comte de Mirabeau; also Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published in 1782.
In the late 18th century the theme of sado-masochism was explored by the Marquis de Sade in such works as Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue and 120 Days of Sodom. The Marquis de Sade's work was very influential on later erotica and he (together with the later writer Sacher-Masoch) lent his name to the sexual acts which he describes in his fiction. Directories of prostitutes and their services have also historically served as a sexual education in print, such as Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies (1757-1795). The rise of the novel in 18th century England provided a new medium for erotica. One of the most famous in this new genre was Fanny Hill by John Cleland. This book has often been adapted for the cinema in the 20th century.
- Dom Bougre (1741) -
- Thérèse Philosophe (1748) -
- Les Bijoux indiscrets (1748) -
- Fanny Hill (1748) -
In the mid-18th century, techniques allowed for production of full-color prints, called nishiki-e, and the ukiyo-e that are reproduced today on postcards and calendars date from this period on. Utamaro and Hokusai were the prominent artists of this period.
Eroticism in English caricature starts with the work of William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), who was more of a moralizer than an eroticist, and moves to Thomas Rowlandson (1756 – 1827) and James Gillray (1757 - 1815).
Hogarth’s eroticism is very much subdued and can be found allegorically in his moral series A Harlot's Progress and A Rake's Progress, two series which made him rich and famous. There is also Before and After and Boys Peeping at Nature.
Rowlandson’s eroticism is much more explicit and represents a shift in morality and a changing market place. No longer edifying but purely parodic are prints such as "Departure of the Husband", "The Larking Cull", "Such Things Are, or A Peep Into Kensington Gardens", some of these posthumously collected in Pretty Little Games for Young Ladies and Gentlemen. The erotic prints of Rowlandson number in the hundreds.
James Gillray, sometimes spelled Gilray (born August 13, 1757 in Chelsea; died June 1, 1815), was a English caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810.
- Molly houses
- European sodomy laws On the 9th of May 1726, three men were hanged at Tyburn for sodomy.
- Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies
- Eighteenth-Century British Erotica (5-Volume Set)
Antonio Canova (November 1, 1757 - October 13, 1822) was an Italian sculptor who became famous for his marble sculptures that delicately rendered nude flesh. The epitome of the neoclassical style, his work marked a return to classical refinement after the theatrical excesses of Baroque sculpture.
Giacomo Casanova (1725 in Venice – 1798 in Bohemia) was a famous Venetian adventurer, writer, and womanizer. He used charm, guile, threats, intimidation, and aggression, when necessary, to conquer women, sometimes leaving behind children or debt. In his autobiography Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century, he mentions 122 women with whom he had sex.
In spite of him being a historical character and Don Juan being a legend, Casanova is often associated with him.
Histoire de ma vie (Story of my Life) is both the memoir and autobiography of Giacomo Casanova, a famous 18th century Italian adventurer. A previous, bowdlerized version was originally known in English as The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova (from the French Mémoires de Jacques Casanova) until the original version was published in 1960.
Although Casanova was Venetian (born 1725 in Venice), the book is written in French, which was the dominant language in the upper class at the time. The book covers Casanova's life only through 1774, although the full title of the book is Histoire de ma vie jusqu'à l'an 1797, (History of my Life until the year 1797). Its first publication was in German in 1822.
Kneeling Nun (ca 1731) by French painter Martin van Meytens