Monthly Archives: June 2008

Her arms and bosom leaning on a pillow

it is time for Icon of Erotic Art #30.

Marie-Louise O'Murphy

Painting of Marie-Louise O’Murphy by François Boucher c. 1751

Many of the IoEAs we have featured have been out of the mainstream, even obscure. Not for today’s icon. It is one of the first works one encounters when studying the history of eroticism in art. It celebrates the trope of the big and beautiful woman, an art later perfected by Rubens.

Casanova remarked on this painting and its model O’Murphy which he claims to have known:

The position in which he painted it was delightful. She was lying on her stomach, her arms and her bosom leaning on a pillow, and holding her head sideways as if she were partly on the back. The clever and tasteful artist had painted her legs and calves with so much skill and truth that the eye could not but wish to see more; I was delighted with that portrait; it was a speaking likeness, and I wrote under it, “O-Morphi,” not a Homeric word, but a Greek one after all, and meaning beautiful.”–Casanova, Histoire de ma vie

Marie-Louise O’Murphy de Boisfaily (21 October, 173711 December, 1814) was a child-courtesan, one of the several mistresses of King Louis XV of France.

She was the fifth daughter of an Irish officer who had taken up shoemaking in Rouen, France. After his death, her mother brought the family to Paris.

In 1752, at fourteen years of age, she posed nude for a memorable and provocative portrait by artist François Boucher. Her beauty caught the eye of Louis XV. He took her as one of his mistresses, and she quickly became a favourite, giving birth to the king’s illegitimate daughter, and possibly a second one.

After serving as a mistress to the king for just over two years, O’Murphy made a mistake that was common for many courtesans, that of trying to replace the official mistress. Around 1754, she unwisely tried to unseat the longtime royal favorite, Madame de Pompadour. This ill-judged move quickly resulted in O’Murphy’s downfall at court. After three marriages, she died in 1814 at the age of 77.

The Death of Cleopatra (IoEA#29)

It’s time for Icon of Erotic Art #29

Death of Cleopatra (1658) by Guido Cagnacci

Death of Cleopatra (1658) by Guido Cagnacci

“Her sole vestment was the linen shroud that had covered her upon her state bed, and the folds of which she drew over her bosom as if she were ashamed of being so little clothed, but her small hand could not manage it. It was so white that the colour of the drapery was confounded with that of the flesh under the pale light of the lamp. Enveloped in the delicate tissue which revealed all the contours of her body, she resembled an antique marble statue of a bather…Dead or living, statue or woman, shadow or body, her beauty was still the same; only the green gleam of her eyes was some what dulled, and her mouth, so purple of yore, had now only a pale, tender rose-tint almost like that of her cheeks.” –“One of Cleopatra’s Nights” by Théophile Gautier

More by Cagnacci, my first exposure to this celebrator of deviant tastes:


Another “Death of Cleopatra” by Cagnacci


“Magdalena Fainted” by Cagnacci


A lovely chiaroscuro by Cagnacci

To conclude another rendition, by French artist Jean-André Rixens


Death of Cleopatra (1874) by Jean-André Rixens

Tip of the hat to Edward Lucie-Smith‘s Sexuality in Western Art, 1991.

Cheikha Rimitti (1923 – 2006)


I discover that Cheikha Rimitti (19232006)[1], queen of Raï has died.

Arab music is a whole universe in itself, its connection to world music and world culture obvious from this map.

Here is an excellent piece by Farid El-Atrash [2]

My first foray on this blog in Arab music[3].

Our first exposure to Arab music in the Western world of the late 20th century was Ofra Haza‘s “Im Nin’Alu[5][6] song, which was sampled by rap duo Eric B. & Rakim in their single “Paid In Full“(“this is a journey into sound”)[7].


It’s Jahsonic fave Alain Robbe-Grillet day at Dennis Cooper’s [1].

I am honored to have received by John Coulthart the “Arte y pico” award [2].

I’d like to pass the meme to Au carrefour étrange[3], Dennis Cooper [4], Hugo Strikes Back[5], PonyXpress[6], and Trevor Brown[7].

My criterium for selecting these blogs was my willingness to click their new posts when checking my RSS feeds.

The best analysis of this type of internet memes is by Surreal Documents [8], a post he wrote at the occasion of the Thinking Blogger Award we were awarded.


Nothing Natural by Jenny Diski

[FR] [DE] [UK]

While reading Jenny Diski‘s Nothing Natural (1986) I daydreamt of publishing my own version of this 1980s version of the classic novel Gordon by Edith Templeton.

The Jahsonic edition had a cover photograph by American photographer Roy Stuart. It depicted either the “La Bonne” (the maid) scene — one of the most erotic scenes in contemporary erotica — or “The Wall” scenario, which is very similar (although with a reversal of gender) to a dream scene in Breillat‘s masterpiece Romance X.

My edition is rewritten to provide for more intelligent discourse and snappier metaphors, and the perspective is changed from Rachel to Joshua. Joshua being the voice of a post-war Sade.

Sonny Okosuns (1947 – 2008)

Sonny Okosuns (1947May 24 2008) was a Nigerian singer and musician.

He is known for his contributions to the Sun City album and for his African reggae

Okosuns first came to international attention with the 1977 composition “Fire in Soweto[1]“.

Please listen to “Tire Ni Oluwa”[2], which is a groovier track.

Speaking of African reggae, Nina Hagen released a single of that name in 1979, of which a twelve inch mix was also released. This is the seven inch or album version:


African Reggae” (1979) Nina Hagen

From her album Unbehagen

“African Reggae” is WMC #50, this nobrow track appeals to both the punk and the black music crowd and would not be out of place in the German opera category, although probably only for its formal qualities, i.e. the voice of Hagen. The B-side to “African Reggae” was Lucky Number, originally recorded by Lene Lovich [3], Hagen covered the song the following year[4]. Hagen’s version was spunkier.

The Miraculous Milk of the Virgin (IoEA#28)

It’s time for icon of erotic art #28.

“The Miraculous Milk of the Virgin”[1] is a photograph by Bettina Rheims published in her collection I.N.R.I.. The photo was taken in March 1997 and exhibited at the Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont.

Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont[2] is a French art gallery located in Paris. Currently at the gallery is an exhibition by Bettina Rheims, Just like a woman[3], from May 30 – July 16 2008. The exhibition is illuminated by texts by Serge Bramly.

The Miraculous Milk of the Virgin” is icon of erotic art number 28.

The photo is an obvious reference to the lactation miracles, also called Maria lactans (German page).

Maria Lactans painting, probably depicting Clairvaux

Unidentified “Maria lactans” painting depicting St. Bernard of Clairvaux?

From the blog “The hanged man” comes this comment:

Before they were suppressed by the decorous reforms of Trent, these images supported an astonishing range of piety. The medieval craving for physical contact with the divine took satisfaction in reports of lactation miracles.

While St. Bernard of Clairvaux knelt in prayer, a statue of Maria Lactans came to life and bestowed three drops of milk on his lips. St. Gertrude the Great nursed the Baby Jesus and Blessed Angela of Foligno nursed at Christ’s side. Lidwina of Schiedam saw Mary and her attendant virgins fill the sky with floods of their milk. In legend, suckling the Virgin or living saints brought healing and blessings.

Religious allegories celebrated lactation. Mary was the maiden in the garden who gave suck to the unicorn-Christ, the innocent victim hunted by men. Ecclesia, Sophia, Caritas, and sundry Virtues were shown as nursing mothers.[4]

Poking around on Google, I found the image above [5], can anyone ID?

A related IoEA was the Roman Charity one.

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?

Work by Belgian artist Auguste Donnay (1862 – 1921)

Posting this painting was inspired by a recently opened exhibition in Brussels:Oriental Fascination – Japonism in Belgium, which from today until 28 September 2008 will show for the first time in Belgium, Japonism in Belgium, from the collection of Feliks Jasienski in Krakow. The exhibition is at the Brussels Town Hall, in the very center of Brussels.  Some of Donnay’s work is on display.

The above painting is of course not representative of the exhibition, but I wanted to show it to you anyway, since discovering interesting work from my native Belgium is always a pleasure.

Below a work from Hokusai, the artist most typical and best-known for the European fin de siècle craze known as Japonism.

Hokusai Old woman

Work by Hokusai

The titular phrase of this post is from a poem by François Villon, “Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis”, with its famous line: Mais où sont les neiges d’antan ?, translated in English as “Where are the snows of yesteryear ?”

Erotická revue

Erotická revue 1

Erotická revue 2

The Erotická revue[1] was an arts journal launched by Czech surrealist Jindřich Štyrský in 1930. It is also the name of the blog of American author Evie Byrne[2].

From Evie Byrne’s blog come:

Pompeii bedroom scene

Pompeii bedroom fresco

Sarah Goodridge, Beauty Revealed (Self-Portrait), 1828

Work by Sarah Goodridge

Emmanuel de Ghendt (1738-1815), Midday Heat, an engraving after Baudouin

Emmanuel de Ghendt (1738-1815), Midday Heat, an engraving after Baudouin

Speaking of Czech surrealism, I just found some Svankmajer clips at YouTube. Some of his best work: Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), which shows Arcimboldo-like heads gradually reducing each other to bland copies (“exhaustive discussion”[3]); a clay man and woman who dissolve into one another sexually, then quarrel and reduce themselves to a frenzied, boiling pulp (“passionate discourse”[4]); and two elderly clay heads who extrude various objects on their tongues (toothbrush and toothpaste; shoe and shoelaces, etc.) and use them in every possible combination, sane or otherwise (“factual conversation”[5]). Follow the links to see more of Jahsonic fave Svankmajer.

Last minute, it’s Trevor Brown day[6] over at Dennis Cooper‘s blog.

Rietveld @ 120

Gerrit Rietveld (June 24, 1888June 26, 1964) was a Dutch furniture designer and architect.


Leunsteul van Rietveld. Circa 1918. Published in De Stijl, second year, number 11 (September 1919). Photographer unknown, so copyright expired on 1-1-1990.

Rietveld designed the Red and Blue Chair in 1917, but changed its colors to the familiar style in 1918 after he became influenced by the ‘De Stijl‘ movement

Rietveld chair

Picture of a replicum of the Red and Blue Chair designed by Gerrit Rietveld. Picture taken by Wikipedia user Ellywa, with permission of the owner of the chair.

See also Dutch design, modernist design.