EROTIC: PASSION & DESIRE From Antiquity to the Present Day
Sotheby’s London, 22 January 2018: Artists throughout history have been drawn to the human form. In the second edition of Sotheby’s Erotic: Passion & Desire sale, Pre-Columbian sculpture will be paired with Picasso works on paper; masters of photography from Man Ray to Rankin will be set against 19th century marbles and antique reliefs; Gustav Klimt’s sensual eroticism will jostle with Keith Vaughn’s unrestricted erotic fantasies; each work charting the history of the subject from antiquity to modern day. The exhibition in Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries, on public view from 7 – 15 February, takes viewers on an art historical journey. Comprising 90 lots with a combined pre-sale low estimate of £3.8 million, this year’s auction will be accompanied by an online sale, presenting an even wider range across continents and centuries. Erotic Art Online will be open for bidding from 2 – 16 February and includes prints, photographs, paintings, sculpture, drawings, Asian works of art and film posters.
Constantine Frangos, Head of Sale, said: “The story of erotic art is a story from many different times and many different lands, and our second Erotic sale brings together a broad range of artworks and objects which lay bare the history of human sexuality in all its guises. Following the success of last year’s inaugural sale, we’re thrilled to bring together another rich and diverse group, striking in both subject matter and artistic expression.”
Tania Remoundos, Impressionist & Modern Art Specialist, said: “This auction provides an extraordinary insight into how some of the greatest names in art history engaged with the subject of erotic art. Francis Picabia’s irreverent homage to French wartime glamour magazines is the perfect coverlot for the sale, as the avant-garde artist purposefully sets out to outrage the art establishment with his sun- drenched bathers.”
Francesco Barzaghi, Phryné, white marble, 1868 (est. £400,000-600,000)
A depiction of the famously beautiful courtesan of fourth century Ancient Greece, Phryné is an exquisite sculpture by Francesco Bazarghi – a leading proponent of the avant-garde Scapigliatura or ‘bohemian’ movement in Milan. Phryné was best known for her trial for impiety before the Athenian judges, where she was accused of the capitol offence of profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries. It is said that at the moment of sentencing, her advocate, the orator Hyperides, swept off her clothes – revealing a body so divine-looking that the judges were unable to condemn it to death. It is also thought that she was the model for her lover, the sculptor Praxiteles’ statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos – the first life-sized nude statue of a woman from ancient Greece.
Francis Picabia, Les baigneuses, femmes nues bord de mer, oil on card, 1941 (est. £400,000-600,000)
Picabia was fascinated by the subversive power of eroticism, and in the 1940s his practice took a surprising turn as he began to paint nudes in the style of French glamour magazines. Living in the South of France, his sources included mass-produced erotica, postcards, and photo-novels as he used the traditional medium of oil painting to explore the dichotomy between low and high art. In an exaggerated manner, the artist parodied the ‘high’ genres of allegory, portraiture and mythological scenes. Pablo Picasso, Homme et femme nus, brush and ink, wash and pencil on paper, 29th November 1971 (est. £250,000-350,000)
This work on paper is a powerful example of the extraordinary sensuality and eroticism in Picasso’s late drawing – depicting a woman languorously enclosed within the embrace of a satyr-like male. In Picasso’s works, artistic desire is an extension of an erotic drive, and here the underlying ripples of the struggles and physical hardships facing the ageing painter are given potent expression.
A Roman Terracotta Plaque with Brothel Scene, circa 1st Century A.D. (est. £20,000- 30,000)
Testament to how representations of love and sex transcend time, a number of lots stretch back to ancient Rome – asserting the idea that there is no form of modern sexual behaviour that has not already been perfected by our forebears. This ancient Roman plaque is moulded in relief with an apparent narrative unfolding in three scenes from right to left divided by architectural elements, with various encounters between men and women.
Jacopo Amigoni, Venus and Adonis, oil on canvas (est. £300,000-500,000)
One of the most exciting mythological works by Jacopo Amigoni, this magnificent and monumental canvas depicts the Roman goddess of love embracing Adonis – passionately gazing into his eyes and imploring him not to leave on the hunting trip where he would die. By using gentle emotion rather than drama to define the narrative, he has created his most tender and beguiling depiction of the myth. The graceful painting focuses on the carnal relationship between the two protagonists, the lovers physically intertwined in the centre of the canvas. This sensual work was originally part of a pendant pair created during the artist’s English sojourn, its partner now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In the 1730s, Amigoni found an avid audience in the various courts of Europe, which had developed a taste for the charm of the Venetian Rococo – becoming one of the foremost and highly sought after decorative artists of his generation.
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