Four elderly men peer pruriently at a painting of a reclining Venus, with similar framed work around the room. Lascivious old men or art historians? While the designer of this print, Thomas Rowlandson, was poking fun at the connoisseurs, he was himself as interested in sexual imagery as the others.
During the final years of his life, Rowlandson privately printed at least ten stipple engraving depicting sexual encounters he called Anatomy Diversions. Long after Rowlandson’s death, John Camden Hotten (1832-1873) collected a set of these prints and published them in a bound edition accompanied with his own equally explicit poems. Only 100 copies were printed, entitled Pretty Little Games for Young Ladies and Gentlemen with Pictures of Good Old English Sports and Pastimes ([London: J.C. Hotten], 1845 [i.e. 1872]). Graphic Arts Collection (GA), Rowlandson 1845
See Henry Spencer Ashbee, Centuria librorum abscondorum, (Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature, v.2), p. -354.
Here are a few examples:
The Hairy Prospect or the Devil in a Fright
Once on a time the Sire of evil,
In plainer English call’d the devil,
Some new experiment to try
At Chloe cast a roguish eye -t
But she who all his arts defied,
Pull’d up and shew’d her sexes pride :
A thing all shagg’d about with hair,
So much it made old Satan stare,
Who frightend at the grim display,
Takes to his heels and runs away.
The Curious Wanton
Miss Chloe in a wanton way
Her durgling would needs survey.
Before the glass displays her thighs
And at the sight with wonder cries,
“Is this the thing that day and night
Makes men fall out and madly fight ?
The source of sorrow and of joy
Which King and beggar both employ?
How grim it looks, yet enter in,
You’ll find a fund of sweets begin!”
Rural Felicity or Love in a Chaise
The Winds were hush’d, the evening clear,
The Prospect fair, no creature near,
When the fond couple in the chaise
Resolved each mutual wish to please.
The kneeling youth his vigour tries,
While o’er his back she lifts her thighs.
The trotting horse the bliss increases,
And all is shoving love and kisses.
What couple would not take the air
To taste such joys beyond compare.