The Venetian painter Francesco Hayez is considered a genius of historical romanticism. In addition to the quality and refinement of his artworks, he captured moments in which mythological, biblical, and historical characters seem to overlap with the real world. They appear as a parallel universe that still charms for its realism. Hayez was a remarkable 19th-century painter, but next to his unquestionably grand art, there are also some quite surprising erotic drawings.
Francesco Hayez was born in 1791. His maternal aunt’s husband noticed his predisposition for drawing, and supported him by funding his drawing lessons. In 1806, at only 15 years old, Hayez entered the New Academy of Fine Arts.
Possibly his most well-known painting is The Kiss. The painting, which portrays a romantic and passionate (and probably secret) encounter, is one of the most beautiful kisses in art history. The artist, in addition to painting biblical, mythological and literary themed art also kept busy recording historical events and important figures like Ferdinand I.
Hayez’s interest in the artistic nude is remarkable. Although the focus on anatomical detail was characteristic of historical romanticism, nudes stand out as a large component of Hayez’s work. He produced erotic drawings, less than a dozen sketches, which appear to be a sort of sex manual.
In Cunnilingus, or oral sex performed on a woman, the idea that female pleasure was not a concern during the nineteenth century appears to be incorrect. After all, the girl is the center of attention, that, besides the position, also has the hand of the partner under her breast (which she reciprocates with the left hand). Her face is not finished or well portrayed, but even so, take a look at the neck that tilts slightly backward: you must know what that means …
In another drawing of the same name, Hayez portrays the couple in the same position, but from another perspective. This angle also allows us to recognize the attention that the artist paid to human anatomy. In addition, there is a curious detail: the couple are not in a bed, but on a dais. Are we seeing a clandestine meeting? Well, even if it is, it is clear that unlike the first image, the couple could completely undress.
Still, in the “oral sex” category, the next sketch portrays Fellatio, or oral sex performed on a man, and despite the name, shows the position commonly known as 69. Eroticism is evident not only in the drawing but in the idea as well. Note that sexual intercourse does not just involve penetration – as most of us expect from nineteenth-century sex – it seems that the act is a mere preliminary. The positions and the behaviour of the partners suggest that they could spend a lot of time there, don’t you think?
In Mutual Masturbation, the couple are sitting on a sofa – and it is interesting to note the dynamics of Hayez’s scenarios in these drawings. Masturbation is, as the title says, mutual, and it’s enhanced by a passionate kiss. Even though they are still partially clothed, the partners are completely focused on their pleasure (although the position and location are suggestive of another secret meeting).
In Sexual Intercourse, the idea of penetration is imagined. Both partners touch each other before the sexual act which is present in the drawing Overlapping Wife Back Position On The Swing, in which the woman seems to sigh and moan in pleasure while she is being kissed by her lover. The only problem with this design is the socks. Let’s face it, socks? Really? They must have been in a rush.
Most of the drawings do not have a specific date, but it is possible that they were made between the 1820s and 1830s when the painter had a relationship with Carolina Zucchi, who is portrayed in the images. The truth contained in Hayez’s drawings makes it clear that he made more than a mere technical study, but sought to record the most intimate of moments. Currently, all of the erotic drawings of Francesco Hayez are held in private collections. In 2009, four of them were auctioned at Sotheby’s.
Carolina posed for a series of Hayez’s paintings as historical and mythological characters, and also had her portrait painted. However, the romance between Hayez and Carolina did not end well. The painter married another woman and Carolina fell ill, deeply saddened by the fact that she would never unite with her lover.
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