VIII. Private Pleasures

The drawings selected for this section are from a much larger portfolio of libertine and sometimes pornographic Desrais drawings. Limned with care and attention to detail, they do not seem to be illustrations for any text, but are autonomous scenes.  It is unclear how politically transgressive these drawings might have been, or whether they were designed with primarily erotic pleasures of viewing in mind. In keeping with the values of eighteenth-century libertine thought, these vivid images emphasize physical pleasures experienced through the senses, by both women and men. Largely oriented towards heterosexual scenarios, they nonetheless eschew conventional sexual restraints, ignoring or even spurning accepted morals, gender hierarchies, and forms of behavior sanctified by the larger society.


Image: Charles-Joseph Natoire. French, 1700-1777. Erato Serenading Thalia, Euterpe, and Melpomene, 1738. Oil on canvas.