T he distinction between erotic art and pornography can be difficult to parse. Across history, the mutability of sexual mores and taboo have resulted in widely fluctuating attitudes toward the depiction of flesh, from period to period and between cultures. Take for instance the Warren Cupan ancient Hellenic vessel engraved with homoerotic imagery that was barred entry to the U.
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She is neither a Venus, nor a bathing Diana, nor a Susanna chased by the elders: she is a woman proud to show her body. Such a low art does not even deserve to be blamed.
The reason lies behind the fact that the artist took off any veil of justification from the female figure to explain her nudity. Ready in the daytime to condemn the scandal of an uncovered ankle, the same bourgeoisie would go cast a sidelong glance at the Origine du Monde by Gustave Courbet in the boudoir of the eccentric Turkish-Egyptian diplomat Khalil-Bey three years later: one of the most wanted paintings in the world, because it proposed an unveiled female sexuality.
These scandalous works speak of eroticism.
Trying to define eroticism means entering an uncertain territory, whose limit risks to stray in vulgarity and pornography, which have little to do with Eros. Does the calendar of Olivero Toscani ring a bell? Twelve months with twelve close-ups of male and female genitalia. Erotic is what stimulates desire.
When someone manages to draw attention on him or herself, to such an extent that they become the object of desire of another, an erotic situation occurs. A witty China ink by Alberto Martini perfectly describes an erotic situation. A dressed-up voyeur moves away the clothes of a woman who is lying in bed, showing her private parts.
A small drawing, magnetic with a morbid vein, of the eccentric Italian artist, friends with the likewise eccentric marquise Casati and Marinetti. The erotic drawings made by Gustav Klimt became very popular, no longer relegated to private cabinets or dives.
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All the portrayed women, in lustful attitudes of self-eroticism and lesbian love, were welcomed by the Viennese high society. Klimt explores the female universe with sensitivity, incredible psychological depth, and indisputable technical ability. An opposite faith befell the Austrian Egon Schielewho was convicted with the accusation of corrupting a minor and, after his pornographic drawings were found in his apartment, he was arrested and detained for three days.
His declared cohabitation with the model Wally Neuzil and his paintings of minor girls kept him at the margins of society. In these prints, Schiele represented the rawness of sex, made up of extremely thin, worn out, and disted nudes. Another series of erotic drawings does not leave room for imagination, and often brushes against pornography.
Worthy of mention are also the precious prints of the Bible Noir Quo vadis domine? Parigi, Edition Privat, by R. Delechampswith erotic desecrating scenes in interior spaces of houses, with brothel and orgy scenes of drunken monks.
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The history of erotic art is ripe with pleasure, and pain—a story in images
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