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The Concealed Erotic Paintings of Sommonte (19th Century)

A first glance this object exudes nothing but chasteness, but upon closer inspection reveals erotic paintings.

By Adam Green, July 7, 2017.

Concealed Erotic Paintings

This wonderfully unique object, from the collection of Henry Wellcome, stands perhaps as something of an embodiment itself of the nineteenth century’s complex attitudes to sex — at first glance exuding nothing but chasteness (cue images of covered-up piano legs, lewd ankles, etc.), but upon closer inspection revealing a much saucier substratum. And indeed, it is perhaps not entirely inappropriate that with this multi-layered painting the eye alone won’t do: one must get up close and personal and use one’s hands.

Contrary to first impressions, the painting is actually made up of three wooden slats — two of which are painted on both sides, the third just on one — all slid into the frame in such a way as to show only the pink and white roses to the world. The other much naughtier scenes must be actively uncovered by those in the know. As for which paintings go where, it appears that the first slat (the roses recto, the Lubenzia/Libitina image verso) is attached to the top piece of frame, the removal of which reveals the second slat (the fruit recto and orgy scene verso), with the fornicating couple at the very back.

Concealed Erotic Paintings

Why the innocent-looking still life of fruit? Possibilities of symbolism aside, it is most likely simply to add another layer of security, should someone accidentally lift the first slat. About the artist — given only as “Sommonte” — not so much is known, but the object is thought to have been produced in Naples, Italy, at some point in the 1800s.

Source: Wellcome Collection
Underlying Work Rights: PD Worldwide
Digital Copy Rights: No Additional Rights

Also see: Collectable art … a celebration of sexuality.

Vintage Erotica

Vintage Erotica

If you enjoy erotic stories from the days of yore, vintage erotic art from around the world and classic erotic animation you’ll be glad you checked out Delta of Venus. The collection also includes erotic paintings and thousands of antique photos from Victorian times to the the 1950s plus pin-ups and racy sex magazines of the Free Love era.

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