Suiting yourself

Peter Campbell

  • I Modi. The Sixteen Pleasures: An Erotic Album of Renaissance Italy by Lynne Lawner
    Northwestern, 132 pp, $35.95, February 1989, ISBN 0 8101 0803 8
  • The Dress of the Venetians 1495-1525 by Stella Mary Newton
    Scolar, 196 pp, £28.50, December 1988, ISBN 0 85967 735 4
  • Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: René Bouët-Willamez and Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: Carl Erickson by William Parker
    Joseph, 128 pp, £14.95, March 1989, ISBN 0 86350 198 2
  • Women and Fashion by Caroline Evans and Minna Thornton
    Quartet, 184 pp, £15.00, March 1989, ISBN 0 7043 2691 4

No complete set survives of I Modi, the famous engravings showing positions for copulation, made by Marcantonio from drawings by Giulio Romano: it is said that both copper plates and prints were destroyed by the order of Pope Clement VII. The engraver was imprisoned, and the second edition, which included 16 sonnets written by Pietro Aretino to accompany the pictures, was also supressed. However, there’s a sheet of fragments (with the provocative bits excised) in the British Museum, and drawings made in the mid-19th century by Count Frédéric-Maximilien de Waldeck, based on a set of the engravings found, he said, in a Mexican convent, seem likely to be genuine reconstructions. They conform both with the British Museum fragments and with an edition in which the original engravings have been copied as woodcuts – the illustration here is taken from it – which Lynne Lawner supposes to have been produced in Venice around 1527. The unique surviving copy of this edition was found in 1928 by Walter Toscanini, son of the conductor. The pages of this book, the de Waldeck drawings, the British Museum fragments, and translations of the sonnets, are all included in Lawner’s book. A foreword by George Szabo relates the images of I Modi to the history of erotic art, and traces their use as sources by, for example, majolica-makers.

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