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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Bibliophile

The Bibliophile

“Erotica” is a terrific collection of roughly 170 erotic art pieces of the highest quality from 17th and 18th century Europe. The artwork deals with the sensual and the sexual and, at times, the terrifyingly disturbing. The book opens with a brief introduction by Gilles Neret that I totally meant to read until I noticed the portrait on the facing page entitled “Frontispiece of Dom Bougre ou Le Portier des Charteux.” I don’t speak French but if the image is any indication that roughly translates into, “A faun gives an intimate back rub to a man as he writes with one hand and polishes his cannon.” From here on in the book takes flight. Subjects are depicted in the act of pure erotic bliss whether they are alone, in pairs, groups or accompanied by animals or mythical creatures.

The collection is organized with a nice sense of flow, beginning with a few elemental boudoir scenes of light debauchery before stepping out into the great outdoors for some communing with nature. There is also an entire section devoted to gods and deities by Agostino Carracci. Carracci seems to have a profound enthusiasm for incredibly ripped, man-like female subjects. Really. I had a tough time telling which subject was a man and which was a woman half the time. Another distinguishing characteristic of Carracci is his habit of slipping phallic symbols into the backgrounds of his works. Go ahead and try to spot them all, it’s like a really dirty version of “Where’s Waldo.”

As we progress further on our journey through the collection the number of participants begins to grow as the scenes become heavily influenced by the Marquis de Sade with all manner of contraptions popping up and the size of the parties rising into the double digits. Some of the devices include pulleys, swings, whips, cages and a few things I’m happy to say I’ve never seen before. By this I mean specifically the instrument that is used to lower two pregnant women on top of each other. While some of the painting in this book could be used as a jumping off point for deeper sexual exploration between you and your partner I would highly advise skipping that particular one.

Before you decide that the acts of depravity depicted in this book are pornography and have no artistic value let me point out that one of the artists included in the collection is none other than renowned Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt. Rembrandt’s works are far from tame and weren’t included just to give the collection a big name artist, if that’s what you’re thinking. In fact one of the etches I was most disturbed by was entitled “Women Urinating.” Don’t let the name fool you, because this piece features a single subject who looks like she’s doling out some serious soft-serve if you’re following me here. Yet this is what makes the book art, Rembrandt captures his subjects in real moments, emphasizing human imperfection, and not sex, as his major theme. Furthermore the images are beautifully detailed and flawlessly composed. Many of the selections included in the book also act as a satire, against politics, war, and the church and actually make a statement meant to provoke thought and not merely erections.

Just because “Erotica” contains some genuine art doesn’t mean it takes itself too seriously. This book will have you laughing all the way through. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a sense of humor who isn’t completely horrified by any mention of sex or nudity.