From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Pietro Aretino letter written to Battista Zatti:
"After I arranged for Pope Clement to release Marcantonio of Bologna, who was in prison for having engraved the "Sixteen Positions," I desired to see those figures which had driven Gilberti and his followers to cry out that the virtuosistic artist who had conceived them should be crucified. As soon as I gazed at them I was filled with the same spirit that had moved Giulio Romano to draw them. And since poets and sculptors, in order to amuse themselves, have often written or carved lascivious objects such as the marble satyr in Chigi Palace attempting to rape a boy, I tossed out the sonnets which are to be seen below." --, tr. from the Lynne Lawner edition, p.8-9
Longer fragment from :
" Since I obtained from Pope Clement the release of Marcantonio Bolognese, who was in prison for having engraved on wood the XVI Modes, etc., there came over me the wish to see the figures which had caused the querulous followers of Giberti to exclaim that this good craftsman ought to be crucified. When I saw them I was overcome by the spirit that caused Giulio Romano to design them. And since the poets and sculptors, ancient as well as modern, used to write and sculpture sometimes, to give vein to their genius, lascivious things, even as in Palazzo Chigi the Satyr of marble bears witness — the Satyr who is attempting to violate a boy, I amused myself by writing the sonnets that are seen beneath the figures, the wanton memory of which I dedicate by leave to the hypocrites, out of patience with their villainous judgment and with the hoggish custom that forbids the eyes what most delights them. What evil is there in seeing a man possess a woman ? Why, the beasts would be more free than we ! It seems to me that that which is given us by nature for our own preservation ought to be worn round the neck as a pendant and in the hat for a medal. It is the very source from which gushes forth rivers of people. ... It is that which has made you, that are the first of living surgeons. It is that which has produced the Bembos, the Molzas, the Fortunios, the Varchis, the Ugolin Martelllis, the Lorenzo Lenzis, the Dolcis, the Fra Bastianis, the Sansovinos, the Titians, the Michelangelos and after them the Popes, the Emperors and the Kings : it has begotten the loveliest children, the most beautiful women, with Santa Santorum : so that we should command Feasts and consecrate Vigils and Holy Days to it and not shut it up in a bit of cloth and silk. The hands might well be hidden for they play with money, swear falsely, lend at usury, are contemptuous and defiant, tear, shoot, strike, wound, kill. As for the mouth it blasphemes, spits in the face, devours, drinks and vomits. In fine the lawyers ought ..."
I Modi (The Ways) also known as The Sixteen Pleasures or under the Latin title De omnibus Veneris Schematibus, is a famous, essentially lost collection of erotic engravings of the Italian Renaissance, first published in 1524 by Marcantonio Raimondi. I Modi were then published a second time in 1527, now with the poems that have given them the traditional English title Aretino's Postures, making this the first time erotic text and images were combined.
It is an illustrated book of 16 "postures" or sexual positions. Raimondi had published the I Modi once before, and was subsequently imprisoned by Pope Clement VII and all copies of the illustrations were destroyed. Raimondi based the engravings on a series of erotic paintings that Giulio Romano was doing as a commission for the Palazzo del Te in Mantua. Though the two depictions were very similar, only Raimondi was prosecuted because his engravings were capable of being seen by the public. Romano did not know of the engravings until Aretino came to see the original paintings while Romano was still working on them. Aretino then composed sixteen explicit 'sonetti lussuriosi' ("both in your pussy and your behind, my cock will make me happy, and you happy and blissful") to go with the paintings and secured Raimondi's release from prison. The I Modi was then published a second time, with the poems and the pictures, making this the first time erotic text and images were combined, though the papacy once more seized all the copies it could find. Raimondi escaped prison that time, but the censorship was so complete that no original copies have ever been found. The text in existence is only a copy of a copy that was discovered 400 years later.
The original edition was created by the engraver Marcantonio Raimondi (basing his sixteen images of sexual positions on a series of erotic paintings that Giulio Romano was doing as a commission for Federico II Gonzaga’s new Palazzo Te in Mantua). The engravings were published by Raimondi in 1524, and led to his imprisonment by Pope Clement VII and the destruction of all copies of the illustrations. Romano did not become aware of the engravings until the poet Pietro Aretino came to see the original paintings while Romano was still working on them. Romano was not prosecuted since—unlike Raimondi—his images were not intended for public consumption.) Aretino then composed sixteen explicit 'sonetti lussuriosi' to accompany the paintings/engravings, and secured Raimondi’s release from prison.
I Modi were then published a second time in 1527, now with the poems that have given them the traditional English title Aretino's Postures, making this the first time erotic text and images were combined, though the papacy once more seized all the copies it could find. Raimondi escaped prison on this occasion, but the suppression on both occasions was comprehensive. No original copies of this edition have survived, with the exception of a few fragments in the British Museum, and two copies of posture 1. A, possibly pirated copy with crude illustrations in woodcut, printed in Venice in 1550, bound in with some contemporary texts was discovered in the 1920s, containing fifteen of the sixteen postures.
Despite the seeming loss of Raimondi’s originals today, it seems certain that at least one full set survived, since both the 1550 woodcuts and the so-called Caracci suite of prints (see below) agree in every compositional and stylistic respect with those fragments that have survived. Certainly, unless the engraver of the Caracci edition had access to the British Museum’s fragments, and reconstructed his compositions from them, the similarities are too close to be accidental. In the seventeenth century, certain Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford, engaged in the surreptitious printing at the University Press of Aretine's Postures, Aretino's De omnis Veneris schematibus and the indecent engravings after Giulio Romano. The Dean, Dr. John Fell, imponded the copper plates and threatened the youths with expulsion. The text of Aretino’s sonnets, however, survives.
- I Modi fragments
- Woodblock edition of I Modi (c. 1527)
- Waldeck edition of I Modi Jean-Frédéric Waldeck (1850s)
- L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache (1798)