Viennese artist Franz von Bayros (1866–1924) is unusual among illustrators in that his erotic art tends to be easier to see today than his less scandalous commissions. Such is the case with his illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, some of which I’d seen before but never as many as in a book which arrived recently at the Internet Archive. This is a home-made presentation that uses the Longfellow translation of the Inferno for the text. Bayros can’t compete with the sombre spectacle of Gustave Doré’s illustrations but he depicts some of the less dramatic moments that Doré’s full-page engravings avoid, while also placing a number of his drawings in the same monumental frames he liked to use for his pornographic art.
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Not all the bookplates here are German, the selection includes examples from Franz von Bayros and Walter Crane. The plates are from the 1907 proceedings of the Ex Libris Association of Berlin. I’d not seen anything by Mathilde Ade before but a quick search reveals her to have been a prolific bookplate illustrator. There’s more of her work here (and that blog is also worth a browse).
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More porn. The Internet Archive has, until recently, been a somewhat chaste place where illustrations of sexual encounters are concerned. That’s mostly a result of their books being scans of works from libraries that wouldn’t have stocked illustrated editions of De Sade and company. Les Amis du Crime, together with yesterday’s volume, is part of the Wellcome Library’s sexology collection, an archive that includes eye-catching titles such as Curious Cases of Flagellation in France (1901).
Les Amis du Crime dates from around 1929. “Célio” was a pseudonym of artist Paul-Albert Moras whose woodcut illustrations imitate the engraved illustrations of De Sade’s own time. The borders follow the erotic style favoured by Franz von Bayros, albeit without Bayros’s attention to detail and graphic invention. This is, however, the first book I’ve seen where the page numbers are positioned between a woman’s open legs.
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Sergius Hruby was an Austrian artist who specialised in that fin de siècle staple, the malevolent or sinister woman. Or so it would seem from these examples which, since I’ve chosen the more assertively Decadent fare, may be doing him a disservice. The style is very similar to another Austrian artist, Franz von Bayros, albeit without the overt pornography that’s a feature of Bayros’s drawings. What’s surprising about the Hruby pictures below is that they’re all from the pages of Die Muskete for 1933, a Viennese periodical which ran humorous articles, cartoons, and “glamour” pictures of a type which would have been far too risqué for a British magazine of the same period. Hruby’s work wouldn’t have seemed out of place in 1903 but in 1933 it looks somewhat old-fashioned. Another artist requiring further research, especially if there are more vampire sphinxes lurking somewhere. (And another tip via Beautiful Century.)
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Tuesday’s bookplate post included a rather mild example by Franz von Bayros (1866–1924), the greatest pornographic artist of his generation. Quite by accident I found a substantial collection of his work earlier this week that includes more bookplates.
Von Bayros is far better known today than he would have been during his lifetime when his explicit rococo prints and drawings were available only to collectors. Erotic couplings of any variety quickly become repetitive so the Von Bayros approach was to make a feature of the decor and design, creating elaborate frames and decorative embellishments where the tiniest details emphasise the theme. Alan Moore once described this process to me as “fractal porn”, something you can see at work in these bookplates which are part of a substantial cache at Zeno.org. This is the best collection of Von Bayros art I’ve seen anywhere, quality copies for the most part, in with what appear to be complete sets from each of his illustrated editions. Whenever I look at this artist’s work I think it’s a shame he wasn’t gay. But then as Osgood says at the end of Some Like It Hot: “Nobody’s perfect!”
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