The Libertine Voluptuousness in the Engravings of Achille Devéria
03 juli 2020 
10 min. read

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.

Achille Devéria self-portrait

Fig.1. ‘Achille Devéria Self-portrait‘ (c. 1835) (Source: Wikipedia)


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.

Erotic Scenes

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.”

Famous Writers

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.

Libertine Style

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‘…

Fig.2. ‘Female playing with herself using the pillows on the bed

Fig.3. ‘Lesbian rendezvous between two maids watched by an older lady standing in the doorpost

Fig.4. ‘Lesbian couple sporting a strap-on dildo and a dog

Fig.5. ‘Pose 69

Fig..6. ‘French lady and a caged black native male

Fig.7. ‘Two maids and a donkey

Fig.8. ‘Foursome

Fig.9. ‘Romantic encounter in the forest

Fig.10. ‘Egyptian female performing cunnilingus on another female. They are watched by a mustachioed Egyptian man, wearing a turban

Fig.11. ‘Music teacher and female student

Fig.12. ‘36 degrees above Ice

Fig.13. ‘Erotic game with one blind-folded male and three females

Fig.14. ‘Man lying on the floor masturbating and woman dressing up for the carnival in front of a mirror’ (19th century)

Fig.15. ‘Switzerland‘ (19th century)

achille deveria horny patient

Fig.16. ‘Horny patient‘ (19th century)

achille deveria erotic art

Fig.17. ‘On a chair‘ (19th century)

achille deveria couple in a chair


achille deveria intimate couple on bed


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About the author
Marijn is the founder of With more than 20 years of experience within the sensual and erotic art of shunga he is an authority in the genre. During this time he served many customers with complementing their art collection.


on 03 Jul 2020

Fig. 7 probably was inspired by a scene from "Metamorphoses" ("The Golden Ass") of Apuleius, where the main character was turned into the donkey and one wealthy lady loved spending nights with him.



on 03 Jul 2020

Thanks a lot for the addition Darya, this could very well be the case



on 07 Sep 2020

Could the 'caged black man' actually be a bonobo or chimp? I can't see the original image caption, but thought at the time it was common to refer to apes as men.



on 08 Sep 2020

Thanks Hayley. I think it's pretty safe to say that it concerns a black native as Deveria's style is quite realistic (look at for instance at the donkey!) and the physical characteristics (and the pose) are i.m.h.o. more reminiscent of a human.

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