Konstantin Somov: Das Lesebuch der Marquise

Book of the Marquise signalled a new stage in the artist's work after the "gallant" period and the "lifting of the boundaries" of erotic art, having shown the subtle taste and talent of the master, guarding him from pornography.

By Balthazar Malevolent

Konstantin Somov: Das Lesebuch der Marquise

Book of the Marquise. Collection of Poetry and Prose (Das Lesebuch der Marquise: Ein Rokokobuch von Franz Blei und Konstantin Somoff) is an anthology of frivolous texts from 18th century France, illustrated by Russian artist Konstantin Somov.

It was issued in three editions: in 1907 in German with only eight illustrations ("Little Marquise"), twice in 1918 in the expanded volume of texts in French - the so-called "Middle Marquise" with 24 illustrations, and "Grand Marquise" with 31 illustrations, the third edition being as frivolous as possible. It is a bibliophile rarity.

The book includes excerpts from the erotic works of André Chénier, Casanova, Parny, Voltaire, Crébillon the son as well as from Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons dangereuses. Those are the excerpts from the most diverse genres: lyric poems, songs, epigrams, short stories, diary entries, anecdotes, etc.

The idea for the compilation came from an Austrian essayist, translator and publisher of pornographic magazines, Franz Blei. He compiled a chrestomathy of erotic literature of the Fêtes galantes. The first edition was published in German in Munich.

When Somov returned to this project eight years later, he selected the texts and edited their translation from Russian into French by himself for the second edition (as the artist explained, "about thirty of the most amusing passages"). In the second edition, "a tragic breakdown and a harsh irony are felt". The collection more than doubled in size: extracts from Voltaire, Crébillon the son, Parny, fragments of Les Liaisons dangereuses, and selected episodes of Casanova's Notes were added.

Scatological anecdotes were added to the third edition.

Konstantin Somov: Das Lesebuch der Marquise
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