Libido: Reviews: Erotica Universalis
Erotica Universalis Volume II --
From Rembrandt to Robert Crumb

By Marianna Beck

Ever since the invention of the printing press -- and hence the ability to reproduce art on a large scale -- European artists have churned out massive amounts of erotica. In fact, this nearly 800-page tome is the second volume from publisher Benedikt Taschen and focuses on the carnal expressions of both well-known artists and anonymous talents. Who would have known that the esteemed Rembrandt penned drawings of his wife peeing or that Ingres, the sublime 19th century French painter of aristocrats, had a notebook filled with drawing of copulating couples? From this enormous collection, it appears that every artist (anonymous or otherwise) has had something hidden away in his drawers.

Although the limited English text is printed on pink paper, which is excruciating to read, the hugely diverse selection in images more than makes up for the pink design glitch. Even for someone experienced in the world of viewing sexual imagery, the examples in Erotica Universalis II are both arcane and deliciously naughty. For instance, one finds here a series of paintings of Boucher, commissioned by Louis XV in the mid-18th century for the sexual education of the dauphin (the future Louis XVI). They are surprisingly explicit for their time and were (thankfully) photographed in the late 19th century before being destroyed in a fire at the Tuileries.

This collection stretches from the artists already mentioned to 20th century trouble-makers like Picasso, Tomi Ungerer Robert Crumb and others. While their talents vary accordingly, their expressions embrace a universal urge to leave no body part unexplored.

Erotica Universalis Volume II -- From Rembrandt to Robert Crumb edited by Gilles Néret, text in English/German/French (2000 Benedikt Taschen ISBN 3-8228-6418-8. 765 pages, paperback $29.99)

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