Sunday, June 08, 2003

Book by Victorian antiquarian explores classical sexuality

"The ancient Roman and Greek cultures had a very different attitude about sexuality than successive European cultures, more akin to that of the Kama Sutra. This, of course, was unimaginable to latter day Europeans, who rigidly compartmentalized body, mind and spirit, and to whom any sexuality was sinful and morbid," explains J.B. Hare in his introduction to the online presentation of Musee royal de Naples; peintures, bronzes et statues erotiques du cabinet secret, avec leur explication by Cesar Famin. "Excavators (at Pompeii) were horrified to discover erotic frescos, mosaics, statuary and phallic votive objects. The moveable erotic artifacts were taken to Naples and kept in seclusion in the Royal Museum."

But in 1836, Cesar Famin published a book containing 60 lithographs of this "forbidden" material.

"Famins text to accompany the images is deeply conflicted," Hare observes. "He is obviously drawn to the subject matter and has a deep understanding of the significance of the artifacts. He also takes every opportunity to condemn Classical sexual practices and cultural values. Whether this is a figleaf or a sincere reaction is impossible to determine. However, in spite of the shocked, shocked attitude in Famins text, it contains quite a bit of valid and well-researched information, including quotes from classical authors and details of mythology, artistic methods, spiritual practices, architecture, and literature."

This online text is accompanied by drawings of the subject images. Parental discretion is advised.

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