Friday, November 20, 2015

Ancient Orgy 4: Two Bacchanalian scenes by Auguste Levêque

We have featured a couple of paintings by Belgian artist Auguste Levêque before, here and here.  He had two attempts at an orgy scene, although they were both christened Bacchanalian scenes.  It is unlikely that orgies were common in Ancient Rome as Roman sexual morals ran contrary to the concept.  However they are mentioned occasionally and it seems likely that group sex did happen sometimes: Amongst Roman citizens and prostitutes in brothels, on rare occasions under certain Emperors and as part of religious festivals such as the Bacchanalia, the festivals of Bacchus the Roman God of Wine, intoxication freedom and ecstasy.  The cult of Bacchus came to Rome from Greeks in Southern Italy, based on their own festivals of .Dionysus.  Bacchanalian festivals arrived in Rome about 200BC and were later described in lurid terms by Livy who was, though, writing 200 years later.  Certainly the Roman authorities did crack down on Bacchanalian gatherings and limited the number of people who could participate at one time.  Originally, it seems, this was a female cult and there was a suggestion that, even after men started to particpate, women outnumbered men at these events by two to one.  Certainly, this painting by Levêque features far more sumptuous ladies than men and everyone seem to be having a lovely time!

The second of Levêque's Bacchanalian scenes features rather more embracing couples than the first, several fully fleeced ladies and even some mixed race action.  Although we haven't been able to find out exact dates for these paintings they are both likely to date from 1890-1910 so are quite racy for the period.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ancient Orgy 3: Romains de la décadence (1847) by Thomas Couture

Here we have a nineteenth century interpretation of a Roman orgy by the French painter Thomas Couture (1815-1879).  A largely historical painter who trained in Paris, this painting is very much his greatest work.  It is a vast painting, some 4.7 by 7.7 meters and now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay, although for the previous hundred years it was in the Louvre.

The Roman decadence depicted, while being first displayed alongside a quote from Juvenal: "Crueller than war, vice fell upon Rome and avenged the conquered world", is actually more a comment on what he saw as the moral decadence in France at the time, under the July Monarchy of Louis-Phillipe I, which was eventually ended by the Revolution of 1848.

Couture had an uncomfortable relationship with the artistic elite in Paris and espoused his particular teaching methods from his own atelier.  His pupils included, Chavannes, Fantin-Latour and Degas.

This painting very much followed the classical tradition of men being dressed and the ladies largely naked and includes the inevitable, unconscious, post bacchanalian figure.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ancient orgy 2: Roman Orgy by Wilhelm Kotarbinski

Roman Orgy (c.1872-1887))

This splendid Alma-Tademaesque painting of a Roman orgy is by the Warsaw born artist usually known as Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinsky but, more properly, Wilhelm Kotarbinski (1849-1921).   Kotarbinski's father was dead against him pursuing a career as an artist but after studying in Warsaw he borrowed some money from his uncle and moved to Rome to study there.  After three years in Rome he finished his studies in St Petersburg but returned to Rome where he stayed until 1887 before settling in Kiev for the rest of his career.  Rome influenced his choice of subject and he produced a number of classical and mythical subjects, of which this is the most monumental (it measures 65 by 87 inches).  Later on, his work was looser and closer in style to that of the symbolists.   In Kiev he undertook a number of important murals, including in the city's cathedral.  He always considered himself Polish and not Russian or Ukrainian and once refused to sign a picture in Cyrillic script as a result.

This picture dates from his time in Rome but although it is dated the date is too indistinct to be made out.  He made a later copy in 1893 now in the State Russian Museum.  It's rather a chaste orgy with a little kissing and some half dressed young ladies but the execution is sumptuous.  Sadly, Kotarbinski died in poverty in Kiev while planning to return to Warsaw.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ancient orgy 1: Engravings for Pictures of the Private Lives of the Roman Caesars

Time for another theme on The Seduction of Venus and as Triple P is planning to watch the full length version of Caligula (1980) with his friend A then she suggested a Roman orgy theme.  

We will start with a series of engravings done for Pictures of the Private Lives of the Roman Caesars published in 1740.  While not, perhaps representing full on orgies they do include some scenes of group sex and nudity at banquets.  We will look at the thorny question as to whether ancient Rome really did feature orgies another time but for now we will pick out a number or orgiastic pictures from this publication.  In discussing it with A she maintained that a threesome cannot be an orgy (as there were a number of such among these illustrations) and we would also, maintain that there needs to be more than four participants, otherwise you just have two couples.

The traditional view of an orgy is of group of Romans lolling around on their couches (we suspect the image of orgies wouldn't have been so powerful if they sat at chairs for meals) decadently munching grapes and swigging wine.  Given the possible origin of orgies as Bacchanalian rites this is reasonable.  We would venture that a group of people standing up and embracing, with no food or wine visible, doesn't constitute an orgy, despite the chap in the foreground obviously finding it quite exciting.

At least in this one we have got what could be a wine jug, except, of course wine would have probably been served in an amphora, but perhaps posh Romans decanted their Falernian to let it breathe.  There doesn't appear to be enough women to go around here, hence, alternatives have to be sought.

Here, at least, we have naked slave girls bringing wine and food.  This is much more like it but with only one man, other than the pipe player, many of the girls are going to be disappointed.

Only one man here too (presumably a lucky Caesar) but the large couch offers plenty of room to manoeuvre.  This feels more like a lunch party I went to at one of S's friends.

Finally, with more food being brought, a dancing girl and a couple of other men enjoying the ladies we are starting to get a better feel for it.

More, orgies soon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kissing Venuses 12: Hina and Manu by Paolo Curto

 Some of the most popular posts on our blogs have been those featuring Polynesian lovelies, so what better tonic to a depressingly wet day in England than two kissing Venuses photographed in Polynesia.

These pictures appeared in the August 1983 edition of Italian magazine Playmen and feature, according to them, Hina and Manu.

The pictures were shot by Italian photographer Paolo Curto, who specialises in photographs and paintings which feature the sea and, quite often, young women.  In fact, one of the women here, Hina, features in one of his paintings.  

Born near Venice, he lived in Polynesia for a time but now resides in Sardinia.  His work had appeared in many well known magazines such as: National Geographic, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Stern, Photo, Paris Match and many others.  These days he does a lot of work for the tourism industry.

This final one is lovely!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Shepherd and Shepherdess by François Boucher

A favourite pastoral theme of Francoise Boucher was that of the Shepherd and Shepherdess and he produced a number of paintings on this theme.  All suggest that Boucher thought the job of a shepherd was to loll around the countryside in the company of lady in a state of semi undress and one or two docile looking sheep.  Of all his versions on the theme this one, likely done for one of his private clients rather than for exhibition, displays what he thought these indolent animal guardians actually got up to most of the time.  The shepherd kisses the shepherdess' breast while his left hand toys with the hem of her underskirt, which barely conceals her almost totally displayed groin.  Full on copulation cannot be more than a few seconds away as the sheep appear to keep watch.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Playgirl and Viva Couples Pictorials 2: the 1970s Part 2 -1975

 Playgirl January 1975

1975 would be the year of the couples pictorial and not just in Playgirl and Viva but also in the mainstream men's magazines too, as we shall examine in this post.

Playgirl January 1975

The new year saw Playgirl presenting a period fantasy called New Year 1948 photographed by David Meyer.  Some passionate clinches in this one, with the lady, as was often the case in Playgirl, (just about), remaining dressed.

 Viva January 1975

Viva January 1975

Viva's January couples pictorial by Penthouse stalwart Earl Miller had the gentleman assertively displaying himself in a way that the men's magazine had not yet.  The set is themed around the previous year's The Great Gatsby film.

Viva January 1975

The setting is well done and it is beautifully lit, as you would expect from Miller, but, apart from this tender caress, the couple don't really interact at all but just pose naked together in the same room.

Oui January 1975

Oui featured another one of their celebrity couples in the forms of I Spy actor Robert Culp and his lissome wife Susan. Unlike Jean-Claude Killy, the previous year, however, Culp bravely flashed his penis in his pictorial.

Oui January 1975

An article on aphrodisiacs later in the magazine had another photograph where the male model was showing his penis but this was an even clearer shot than Mr Culp's example. Even more racily, the lady has her thigh actually pressed against the man's prick. All these male members continued to be controversial with the readers, however.

 Playgirl February 1975

Playgirl February 1975

No cock on view but more actual copulatory positions in February's 'fantasy' feature.  This time the woman gets well and truly naked and even, unlike the man, flashes her fur in a couple of small shots.

 Viva February 1975

Viva February 1975

It looks like Viva had a bit of a failure of nerve in February as this double page spread of a lady seemingly with her hand over the man's penis seems to have been blurred somewhat.  It's shame ,as otherwise its a nicely composed shot.

Playboy February 1975

February's Playboy saw them engaging more strongly in the couples pictorial trend with a Oui style shoot by Richard Fegley. It was called The French Maid and was about...a French maid. It was all very tasteful and there were no hints of penises in Playboy.

Penthouse February 1975

Penthouse went one better that month by having a pictorial featuring two girls and a man. Their feature Three in Love was altogether racier and featured glimpses of what Playboy hadn't dared show in its pictorials so far, plus some strong implied fellatio.

Oui February 1975

February's couples pictorial in Oui was less about trying to build an atmosphere of authentic passion and was more of a "comedy" approach; never a successful combination, although it wouldn't stop Oui persisting with this style for a number of years.

 Playgirl March 1975

Playgirl March 1975

Following the release of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, two years later, science fiction themed couples pictorials would become quite popular.  At this point, though, a genre themed fantasy such as this was very unusual.  The male model in this was Paul Barresi; a model, porn star and conventional actor.  More recently he has been involved in a number of cases as a private investigator in celebrity jobs and in 2008 was jailed for wire-tapping, as well as possession of illegal firearms. He is is still in prison.

 Viva March 1975

Viva March 1975

A little less blurring was visible on the member of Viva's March pictorial male model.  This was another period piece set in the 1920s, this time.  From an artistic point of view the Viva pictorials were streets ahead of the Playgirl ones.

Playboy March 1975

Playboy had a pictorial where seven photographers interpreted the theme "ripped off".  Garrick Peterson's contribution had more passion than most of Playboy's couples material and also featured, in a rarity for them, male pubic hair.

 Playgirl April 1975

Playgirl April 1975

April's effort for Playgirl was less revealing for the man but did have him in a World War 1 flying helmet and goggles as the couple romped amongst some balloons.  Even Bob Guccione would have been jealous of the enormous pearl necklace sported by the girl.  Someone's fantasy, anyway.

Viva April 1975

Once again, in April, Viva, a magazine aimed at women featured a woman's nipples on the cover.  Perhaps the presence of the enfolding male arms was enough, or so the publishers thought, to make it appealing to women readers.

Viva April 1975

This pictorial was shot by Earl Miller and in this sequence, at least, the male model's increasing excitement is obvious.  The pictorial was called On the Beach and it was thematically, stylistically and in title the same as the pictorial by Jeff Dunas which would appear in Penthouse the following month.

Playboy April 1975

April's Playboy ran a pictorial on sexy food which included. in this shot by Ken Marcus, this couple being naughty with grapes and oysters.

Oui April 1975

Another real-life couple featured in the April edition of Oui.  Actor Michael Callan appeared in the Ray Harryhausen film, Mysterious Island (1961) and in Cat Ballou (1965).  He was forty at the time of this pictorial and the lady who was described in the text as his "friend Karen" was a minor actress called Karen Malouf who he eventually married (she was his third wife). She looks a lot younger than he does. He flashes his cock even more than assertively than Robert Culp did.

Hustler April 1975

Hustler would become well known for its controversial boy/girl pictorials but back in 1975 they were not yet a staple of the magazine.  This one, Karen and Ken, was one of only two in 1975.  it looked pretty muck like the Playgirl and Viva pictorials but had added labia.

 Playgirl May 1975

Playgirl May 1975

May brought an outdoor Beauty and the Beast fantasy for Playgirl as the couple romped in a damp and chilly looking wood.  One thing that appears to be apparent here is how the beast's proportions grow between shots.  Playgirl had to be careful in the mid-seventies, however, as full erections would have got the magazine into legal problems so they had to ensure that the 'angle of dangle', as they named it, was kept below the horizontal while still permitting some swelling.

Viva May 1975

 Viva May 1975

The couples pictorial in may's Viva was shot by Hong Kong born photographer Wu Tze Chiu, who had also done editorial work for Vogue, Mademoiselle and Seventeen.  It was about a femme fatale arrested by two policemen who she then seduces.  She has her cheek touching one man's penis and there is some implied double penetration.

Penthouse May 1975

May's Penthouse had another boy/girl set, this time from Geoffrey Rian (an alias for Jeff Dunas which he used when he already had another pictorial in the magazine), called On the Beach. This was another first for the magazine in that the girl (future glamour photographer Suze Randall in one of her modelling jobs) was actually shown with her finger in contact with the man's penis.

Viva June 1975

 Viva June 1975

Bog Guccione always ensured he had top photographers working at Viva but for yet another period piece, Express to Sing Sing, set in the world of gangsters he employed the up and coming Richard Schaeffer.  The previous year Schaeffer had self published a photographic book Turquoise Pleasures which had attracted a lot of positive views.  Schaeffer had only recently graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles where he had initially planned to study painting but decided to do photography instead.  In a brief biography in the Penthouse book Loving Couples (1975) it noted that his teachers were particularly impressed by his ability to work with people.

 Viva June 1975

Certainly, his gangster and moll act convincingly affectionately here and the man is obviously erect in his shots.  Oddly, despite his burgeoning reputation, Schaeffer retired from photography shortly afterwards, in 1978, and instead had a career in working in the fields of interior decoration, decorative plaster work and stone renovation.  This is a fine pictorial where you really do think the couple are well on the way to having actual sex.

Oui June 1975

Oui's June couples set, abandoning their celebrity couples (perhaps they couldn't find enough abandoned celebrity couples) purported to show a pair of flying trapeze stars. Eagle eyed readers could just see that the gentleman trapeze artist is flashing his penis in one of the pictures

Viva July 1975

Viva's cover had a very visible female nipple on the cover which was very bold for mid 1975.

The couples pictorial was supposedly set on the Orient Express and was shot by top photographer Robert Farber.  Interestingly, out of the nine pages in the pictorial only two, containing the pictures here, showed any passionate activity.  The rest see the couple in a very murkily shot "train" dining car interior.  Agent Triple P has travelled to Venice on the Orient Express and the set, while sumptuous, looks more like a hotel than a railway carriage.

Penthouse September 1975

September saw yet another boy/girl pictorial in PenthouseMountain Retreat, photographed by Earl Miller. Continuing the trend of making each set slightly more explicit than the last, this one featured the clearest depiction yet of the man's penis, making only its third appearance in one of the magazine's "love sets".

 Viva November 1975

 Viva November 1975

November's Viva had a striking pictorial of a couple in a bath, shot by Jan Michael.  Every photograph was taken from the same viewpoint; directly over the bath with  a mixture of small shots in a strip across the top of the page and full page pictures, like the final one in the pictorial, above, where the girl gently clasps her companion's cock.

Penthouse November 1975

Meanwhile in Penthouse there was even more explicit naughtiness going on with that month's "love set".  Before 1975 Penthouse had only had two boy/girl pictorials; one each in 1972 and 1973. However in 1975 they would eventually have four including this one, Love in the Afternoon photographed in the English West Country by Jeff Dunas and Denis Scott. It may well be that this increase in couples pictorials in Penthouse was in direct response to their increasing appearance in Oui.  What was remarkable about this one was the amount of times the male model's penis was shown. For the first time, in this pictorial, as well, it is clear that he is semi-erect in a couple of the shots.

Penthouse November 1975

This shot where the girl has her breast pressed against the man's member is easily the most explicit boy/girl shot to have appeared in Penthouse up to this point.

 Playboy December 1975

In December Playboy came up with their raciest couples pictorial to date in the shape of  Peep Show which was credited to two photographers: Francois Robert and Robert Keeling. This, perhaps, shows the way that they might have gone if they had decided to keep competing with Penthouse in the Pubic Wars. On the first two pages alone we get voyeurism, masturbation, rear entry sex and pussy touching.

Playboy December 1975

Next they present some threesome action with some lesbian breast kissing and more rear entry thrown in.

In a first and only time for Playboy in one of their couples sets, they included, albeit indistinctly, a glimpse of the man's penis.

Hustler December 1975

Hustler December 1975

December saw Hustler printing their second couples set of 1975 and one which was to have far reaching consequences.  In a way, the pictorial was an odd one for a men's magazine as it completely fetishised Butch's penis.  This shot of Butch taking 18 year old model Deborah Clearbranch (who was, indeed from Georgia and later transformed herself into porn star Desiree Cousteau) from behind so incensed Joseph Franklin, who objected to the interracial aspect, that in June 1978 he gunned down publisher Larry Flynt outside a Georgia courthouse, leaving him a paraplegic.

Penthouse's final pictorial of 1975 was notable for being their first period-set "love set". Later, period, fantasy and science fiction themed pictorials would be quite common in the magazine but this one, set in the Deep South in the nineteenth century was the first.  Period pictorials, however, as we have seen, were very common in Viva.  This had period clothes and interiors and even quite a clever little story. Called The Duel it featured a 22 year old Lori Wagner who had first featured in the magazine in May that year under the name Octavia Corriell.  This shot of Lori with her hand between the man's legs took Penthouse's penis depiction to a new level.

So, 1975 saw couples pictorials becoming popular in both men and women's magazines.  The increasing depiction of men's penises in the pages of the likes of Oui, Hustler and Penthouse may have been something of a surprise and this development was not universally popular with the readers, with some suggesting that men who wanted to see that should buy Viva or Playgirl instead!  In fact, of course, Playgirl was becoming increasingly popular with homosexual men and one former editor estimated that the readership was as much as 50% gay.  The other issue, for all the magazines, was to what extent they could show erections. Writing to the English issue of Penthouse following the publication of The Duel (above) G.F. from Lancaster made a good point: "The Duel was superbly done. They were really enjoying the pleasure of one another and for the first time in any magazine I've seen or bought, the man had a hard on. It made the pictures more realistic...If you photograph couples and they're supposed to be making love and enjoying it then the man's cock should be like that."

Playgirl December 1975

Just as the depiction of women's genitals in couples pictorials in men's magazines was less explicit than in solo pictorials, at the beginning of the year the depiction of penises in women's magazines was often less assertive than in solo shoots.  By the end of 1975, however this was changing but in both men's and women's magazines.  Playgirl, especially, was pushing the levels of tumescence depicted in their solo male shots.  Viva was more assertive in the couples pictorials.

In Viva in 1975 the couples pictorial became the dominant one.  Viva had never had a centrefold in the way that Playgirl had and by 1975 the featured men had lost their two page final picture and their pictorials had been shoved to the back of the magazine, with the couples pictorials taking pride of place in the centre of each issue.

Next time we will look at the rest of the seventies.