The Libertine Voluptuousness in the Engravings of Achille Devéria
The 19th century French painter Achille Devéria (1800-1857) was the son of a civil employee of the navy. Apparently, his family was blessed with artistic genes because his younger brother Eugène Devéria also became a painter, who worked in the then popular Romantic style.
Devéria studied consecutively under Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson and Louis Lafitte. From Girodet he picked up the erotic elements that he would later use in his engravings and lithographs. At the age of thirty, he was a much sought-after illustrator, and made among other things the illustrations to Goethe’s Faust.
Devéria’s experience in the art of the vignette and Mezzotint influenced his numerous lithographs, most of which were issued by his father-in-law, Charles-Etienne Motte (1785–1836). A lot of his work consisted of “pseudo-historical, pious, sentimental or erotic scenes.”
Besides his numerous lithographs, Devéria also produced watercolors with portraits of famous writers and artists. The French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) described his portraits as a depiction of “all the morals and aesthetics of the age.”
Later in his life (in 1849), Devéria was assigned as the director of the Bibliothèque Nationale’s department of engravings and assistant curator of the Louvre’s Egyptian department. He was friends with Edgar Degas’ father (himself an amateur painter and connoisseur), and permitted his talented son to copy from the drawings of the Old Masters there Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya, Holbein. In his position, Devéria often traveled to Egypt, and that is also where he will die in 1857.
Devéria’s libertinism* is clearly evident in his erotic engravings below. The most noticeable (and politically incorrect) plate is probably the one with the caged native and the French lady (Fig.6). The latter has removed one of the bars so that this ‘exotic conquest’ can indulge her from behind!
Figures 2 to 8 are from the book ‘La condesa Gamiani‘…
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