What are the Background Stories Behind Famous Erotic or Sexual Art Pieces?

Tickle.Life Editorial Team  |  Oct 23

What are the Background Stories Behind Famous Erotic or Sexual Art Pieces?

Erotic artworks have been present for centuries¹, and each one of them has its narrative as well as a background story worth exploring. When we look at sexual art pieces, they have been present in ancient times since the brothels run in Pompeii. One of them was Lupanar of Pompeii. However, it was destroyed in 79 AD because of a volcanic eruption. 

Even after this period, there have been several erotic works. But, as time passed, views about erotic art started to change. In this article, we will look into the background stories of famous erotic or sexual art pieces that have brought about a change in representing art and sexuality.

Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan² is an artwork by Peter Paul Rubens, an artist from the Baroque era in Europe. Rubens created this image after drawing inspiration from Michaelangelo's work. 

Rubens drew two versions of Leda and the Swan in 1601 and 1692. However, the first version was more like a replica of Michaelangelo's image. In the second version, he brought in elements of realism in his artwork. In this image, Leda is naked, and the swan's beaks are touching her lips. 

Through this painting, he endeavors to capture the essence of the romantic relationship between the swan and Leda. When we look at a mythological perspective, the story of this famous art piece extends back to Greek mythology. 

Here, Zeus takes the form of a swan to seduce Leda. Through the color combinations used in this artwork, Rubens presents intimacy by using light and dark shades and also by deepening the shadows.

The Young Ladies of Avignon

Painted in 1955, The Young Ladies of Avignon is one of the famous sexual art pieces created by Pablo Picasso. It is a work that strives to bring forward the elements of cubism. Here, the color application, lines, composition, and other aspects of the painting make it one of a kind art piece. 

This artwork by Picasso is a large-scale painting where Picasso endeavors to deal with taboo subjects. In The Young Ladies of Avignon, Picasso brings in and celebrates female sexuality. In this artwork, there are five naked French ladies, who are sex workers from Barcellona Brothel.

Here, Picasso diverges from the traditional representation of sexuality and brings in unusual gestures with frightening facial features. Through this, Picasso endeavors to bring the Iberian style to his artwork. Besides, the bodies are also distorted in this artistic work.

a painting of a woman_art and sexuality
Image by Anne and Saturnino Miranda from Pixabay 

Frenzy of Exultations

Painted in 1893, Frenzy of Exultations³ is a sexual artwork by Wladyslaw Pedkowinski. In this painting, there is a naked woman who is riding a horse. He got the inspiration to create this artwork when he was traveling in Paris in 1889. 

Since then, he has been working on the sketches and focusing on drawing the Frenzy of Exultations. After the completion of this artwork, it was showcased in the Zochela National Gallery Museum.

When the painting started to gain attention, there were a lot of scandals happening related to it. Because of this, there were thousands of people coming to view the painting in the museum. 

But, after a month of showcasing the artwork, Podkowinski destroyed his painting with a knife. However, while slashing the artwork, he focused on the female figure. One of the reasons why Pedkowinski destroyed the woman's image was after being rejected by the woman who inspired him to create the artwork in the first place. Besides, there are numerous legends associated with the Frenzy of Exultations that led to its fame.

Dream of the Fisherman's Wife

Dream of the Fisherman's Wife⁴ is a painting by Katsushika Hokusai created in 1820. Here, he brings in the Japanese genre of Ukiyo-e as an erotic woodcut. In this painting, the focus is on tentacle eroticism. In simple terms, it refers to an artwork where a woman gets entwined with a pair of octopuses. Here, smaller ones are kissing the woman, and the larger one is engaging in cunnilingus. 

This artwork brings in a connection between the story of Princess Tamaton from the Edo period. After marrying Fujiwara-no-Fuhito, Princess Tamaton decided to help her husband search for a stolen pearl, taken by a dragon sea god. 

During this time, several sea animals, including octopuses, pursued her. It is a storyline found in Japanese manga tales and animations as well. 

Besides, Picasso had also created his version of the Dream of the Fisherman's Wife. Along with this painting, there is a text explaining the whole story. Here, there is a naked woman with two octopuses close to her, and in the background, the Moon is black. Through this, the artist endeavors to bring in immense sexual pleasure. It was something widely accepted in Japan during that time.

Touch

Painted in the 1970s, Joan Semmel⁵ created this artwork as a way to depict inclusiveness. Unlike several other famous sexual art pieces, Touch presents Semmel's viewpoint as a participant in the sexual act. 

Here, Semmel paints herself with her lover and diverges from the accepted traditions. Through this painting, Semmel doesn't represent a woman's body as an object for gaze. It is a response to the pornographic depiction of the female body. Instead, she prioritizes intimacy and sexuality through this artwork. In simple terms, this painting presents women's anatomy in a beautiful and mesmerizing manner.

 Jupiter and IO

Jupiter and IO⁶ is a painting by Correggio, an Italian artist. He created this painting after gaining inspiration from Ovid's Metamorphosis, where he brings in the seduction of IO, daughter of the King of Argos, by Jupiter, the king of Gods. Jupiter takes different forms like that of a swan and an eagle as well. Here, in this painting, Jupiter is in the form of a cloud and is embracing IO. Jupiter wraps his hand around IO's waist, and she is in ecstasy. IO parts her lips with joy and seems to be enjoying the moment in the painting. 

References

¹https://timeline.com/visual-history-erotic-art-d8c45a5c6b24 

²https://www.wga.hu/html_m/r/rubens/21mythol/01mytho.html 

³https://www.masterworksfineart.com/artists/pablo-picasso/lithograph/les-demoiselles-davignon-the-young-ladies-of-avignon-1955/id/5775

⁴https://bizarrevictoria.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/the-frenzy/ 

⁵https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/27116136471

⁶https://www.artworkonly.com/famous-art-pt-4/jupiter-and-io-by-correggio-famous-art-handmade-oil-painting-on-canvas

Cover image by Pixabay


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