The convoluted, and convulsive, plot to hide ‘obscene’ erotic art. Even JMW Turner did it

Hush-hush networks have kept so much erotica safe - and its exponents richly enhance its saucy secrets

18 October 2020 - 19:04 By Rowan Pelling

I often wonder how many important erotic artworks and texts have been lost to the purges of history. Sometimes the lost artefact becomes legendary, like I Modi (The Ways, also known as The Sixteen Pleasures), a Renaissance text depicting 16 sex positions, with explicit engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi based on privately commissioned paintings by Giulio Romano.

You won’t be surprised to learn the censor in this instance was the Catholic Church. Pope Clement VII had Raimondi imprisoned and all the original copies destroyed. The poet Pietro Aretino, who had seen and been mesmerised by Romano’s paintings, composed 16 sonnets for a second edition once Raimondi was sprung from jail - known in England as Aretino’s Postures. This version would also end up impounded and destroyed; just a few tantalising fragments survive in the British Museum’s collection...

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.