Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lovers by Octave Tassaert (1800-1874)

We have featured some of the erotic works of French painter Octave Tassaert before (here).  This one, of two lovers, probably dates from around the same time, 1860, just a few years before he stopped painting altogether,descended into alcoholism (which damaged his eyesight) and committed suicide by gassing himself (as did JW Godward). 

What is unusual about it is that it is a painting.  Most erotic art of the nineteenth century was done (often anonymously) to illustrate limited edition erotic books, so was more usually done as lithographs which could be easily reproduced.  Mainstream (rather than erotic specialists) artists who did produce erotic work tended to do so as drawings or sketches (occasionally from life, such as with Turner).  To find a fully rendered, explicit painting by a well known artist (as he was at the time) such as this, is unusual, therefore.

One of the main themes of Tassaert's paintings was the lives of the poor so it may be that our copulating couple are ordinary people rather than than from high society.  Whatever, the lady's expression indicates that she is enjoying the experience.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nymphs and Satyrs by Théodore Géricault

A few months ago we looked at some erotic art by the French painter Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) whose erotic output only surfaced long after his death.  Today, we will look at some of his drawings and sculptures of nymphs and satyrs which were mostly produced in around 1817.

In classical Greek legend satyrs were the companions of the god Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility, amongst other things.  Although sometimes depicted with horses legs they were considered half man and half goat, with long ears and horns and usually a permanent erection.

In later Roman times the creature was transformed into the faun with the familiar goat legs. Satyrs were generally considered more aggressive than fauns and spent much of their time pursuing nymphs.

Géricault has certainly focussed on the aggressive character of satyrs, rather than the more indolent fauns, in his works.  There is none of the gentle compliance seen in other artists works in his pieces.  There is no doubt in all of his examples that the nymph has been grabbed against her will and her resulting struggles provide the animation for the artworks.

Although most of his nymphs are naked, a few appear in classical clothing so as to add an extra element of movement through the depiction of the drapery.  An outflung arm from the nymph is also used quite a bit, perhaps depicting the point of desperate surrender rather than a more aggressive resistance.

Apart from the black chalk, brown wash and white gouache painting at the top of the post, in all cases the nymph is looking away from the satyr, rejecting him completely.

Géricault also experimented with sculpture and this terracotta piece has the satyr attempting to take the nymph from behind,  In this example only the long ears and hooves indicate a satyr as the male figure has normal legs in the traditional Ancient Greek manner.  This is very different from all his other nymph and satyr pieces, so perhaps it was a last minute attempt to make the sculpture acceptable by adding classical elements to what otherwise looks like a human attempted rape.

This sculpture is the only surviving example of the artist's work in carving stone; something that no other painter of the time would even attempt, due to the difficulty of working the material. When fellow painter Delacroix saw it he said "one should need to be a madman to make it",  The nymph, looking away from her aggressor once more, has her hand pressing on the satyr's head but any resistance is futile as the satyr's hand is between his legs to, presumably, grasp his erection and thrust into the nymph.  It is a bold, modern-looking work, looking forward to Rodin and dates to about 1818.

In the near future we will look at Géricault's handling of another mythological subject and there will be more nymphs and satyrs from other artists too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gemini II by Earl Miller

Our chronological examination of Penthouse Love Sets continues into 1979 with this girl/girl set, Gemini II, by Earl Miller.  Although the name sounds like a nineteen seventies Gene Roddenberry science fiction TV pilot, the text in the magazine claims that the models are twin sisters.

We have a number of outtakes for this set but we are going to group them by location rather than include the magazine images first and then the outtakes.  The outtakes (immediately above) will look slightly brighter so in the two nearly but not quite identical images above the magazine version is at the top.

This set appeared in the January 1979 issue, which featured Victoria Lynn Johnson on the cover and was photographed by Earl Miller in his first two girl set for fifteen months (although he had shot the three girl pictorial Living Dolls for the April 1978 issue).

There is no logical chronological progression in this set; we have a number of different set ups including this one of the girls (named Charlotte and Emily in the pictorial) in white underwear.  There are only the two shots of them dressed like this in the magazine.

This fine study of our two ladies on this rug is the only one which uses this backdrop.  It didn't appear in the magazine.

The next set up has our two girls cavorting on a brown leather sofa.   This shot, in particular, is dominated by the curious painting of a swimming pool

The painting has an early twentieth century look about it and it's certainly illustrates a very particular location.  Charlotte and Emily don't seem to care about it, though, as they are more interested in pulling each other's swimsuits off.

As the two girls reveal each other's lovely busts we should ponder on the fact that the text in Penthouse claims they are twin sisters.  If they are sisters, which is doubtful, then they are not identical ones.

Still, men's magazines have always got a little over excited at naked sisters together and try to encourage them to be as sensual as possible with each other for the camera, despite the incestuous nature of the posing.

The two girls are joined on the sofa by a sinister looking doll and almost get into the scissors position.  The pussy touching is quite strong for the period, especially for a Love Set, where they tended to be a bit less explicit than in solo sets. 

The doll has now gone or is, thankfully, out of shot as one girl settles between the thighs of the other in a tactile and passionate shot.

Some gentle breast nuzzling and squeezing brings to an end the sequence of pictures on the sofa.

Next the girls, starting off in different outfits, get undressed for a bath.  Emily (she is the darker haired one) gives us an assertive rear end display as she stands, oddly, in the bath in her stockings.

Soon the girls are in the bath and soaping themselves up very nicely.

Of course, despite being sisters, they can't resist soaping each other up, either.  These three close up bust caressing ones all appeared in the magazine. "They lather and caress one another, basking in the feel of soapy flesh," says the text.

There is no actual mouth to mouth kissing in this set, unlike some previous girl/girl Love Sets,  this is about as close as Charlotte and Emily get.

"Playful in their bath, Charlotte showers her sister with love - and with a loving spray of water," says the text. "The gesture brings Emily's rosy petals to life a second time."  We're sure it does. We have met a lot of girls who enjoy having their pussies sprayed with a shower like this.

The final two page picture doesn't fit with anything that has gone before, really, except one small picture in the pictorial.  They both depict Charlotte and Emily, naked except for a pair of boots on top of a horse.  Naked thighs and pussy straddling a horse is always going to make for a potent image but it almost look as if these shots came from another pictorial.

This was quite a nice set from Miller, although it lacked some of the passion of previous ones such as his own Pas de Deux from September 1977.

There had only been one girl/girl set in 1978 (but two three girl sets) but this one would be the first of no less than five girl/girl sets for 1979. However, the next Love Set will follow in February 1979 and will be a boy/girl one featuring Kelly Nicholls.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Couple by Giovanni Boldini

The Couple (1905)

Here is a splendidly passionate confection by the Italian painter Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931).  It is easy to see, from this animated composition, why Boldini was known as the "Master of Swirl", as the naked girl arches her body into that of the fully dressed man for a kiss.  A really lovely painting, this, full of motion and sensuality.  We will present some more Boldini nudes on Venus Observations later in the week.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Jupiter and Olympias by Giulio Romano

This painting by the Renaissance Italian artist Giulio Romano (1499-1546) is full of symbolism but is also surprisingly graphic for its day.  It represents the legend that Alexander the Great was fathered not by Philip of Macedon but by the God Zeus (Jupiter) in the form of a snake.

Olympias, who was originally named Polyxena, was the daughter of King Neoptolemus I from the Epirus region of Greece (now largely Albania).  On the death of her father, her uncle had her married off in a diplomatic arrangement to Philip of Macedon (although the two were already in love).  A year after they were married Philip's horse won a race at the Olympic Games and he renamed his wife Olympias (played, of course, by Angelina Jolie in Alexander (2004)).  That summer, Alexander was born following a dream by Olympias that her womb had been penetrated by a thunderbolt (portents were important in Ancient Greece).  

Olympias was a follower of the snake-worshipping cult of Dionysus and her biographer, Plutarch, said that she slept with snakes.   This all gives rise to the (very late) Greek legend depicted here.  Philip caught his wife in bed with a snake and sent to the  Oracle at  Delphi for an interpretation of the incident.  The Oracle reported to Philip who told him that it was Jupiter in the form of a snake  and he would lose an eye for having spied them together. 

Romano's painting shows Olympias, her legs apart, her hands braced on the 'frame' of the picture while Jupiter in a half man, half snake form approaches her.  He is patently erect, his penis sliding up her inner thigh, which was very unusual for a public picture at the time but perhaps justified by the mythical story.  Still, we cannot think of any other similarly frank paintings from the period.

In the background you can see Philip of Macedon, caught peeking at his wife and losing his eye to an eagle, the symbol of Jupiter, (he lost his eye at the siege of Methone, a year after Alexander was born.)

The painting is part of a vast fresco Romano did for the Palazzo Te in Mantua (which he also designed).   Jupiter and Olympia is at bottom left.  Romano, a pupil of Raphael, was the official artist and architect for Federico Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua.  Romano was the original artist for the sixteen graphically erotic pictures known as I Modi which we looked at in another post.  Sadly, Romano's originals are long gone but we will look at some more of the engravings done from his works and depicting various historical and mythical couples having sex, another time.