“Falling Stars” (1897).
Sometime in the mid-1870s, while living in Paris, the Hungarian artist Mihály Zichy produced a series of erotic illustrations. These pictures featured men and women having a right old time fucking and wanking, sucking and licking. What inspired Zichy is unclear. A mid-life crisis? A raging hard-on? The current fashion for erotic illustration? Or perhaps wealthy patrons looking for some “dirty pictures”?
Most of these ink drawings lay undiscovered until after Zichy’s death in 1906. They were then collated together and a selection published in a book entitled Liebe (aka Oh, Liebe) in 1911. This nicely produced volume caused a bit of a stir. Zichy might have been pleased—he had often caused controversy with his work. His most famous picture was the demonically-charged anti-war painting “The Triumph of the Genius of Destruction” (1878). This painting was banned by the militaristic French authorities as deviant propaganda. He also managed to offend many Catholics with his work “Autodafé” (1868), which depicted the horrors of Spanish Inquisition. That said, Zichy was a very respectable artist. He painted the portrait of Lajos Batthyány, the first Hungarian Prime Minister. He was commissioned to produce paintings of the Empress of Austra, “Queen Elisabeth Laying Flowers by the Coffin of Ferenc Deák” and “Drinking Bout of Henry III.” He also supplied 27 illustrations for the poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin in 1881.
Zichy was born in Zala, Hungary on October 15, 1827. He started out studying law before taking up a career as an artist. He traveled to Vienna where he became a pupil of the painter Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller. Under Waldmüller’s recommendation, he became a teacher. He then became a court artist for the Russian Tsar Alexander II. When he left St. Petersburg, he traveled around Europe before settling in Paris circa 1874.
Another intriguing question about Zichy’s erotic illustrations is whether he worked from life models? The drawings look more than just the work of some fevered imagination—most noticebly by the fact Zichy’s couples appear to be enjoying each other as equals and not portrayed as mere titillation for the male gaze. He also depicted gay sex and masturbation—which would have been shocking at the time. His style of drawing, the clear lines, the soft penciling, would influence succeeding artists producing similar erotic illustrations.
“The Triumph of the Genius of Destruction” (1878).
See more of Zichy’s erotic artwork, after the jump…