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The Erotic Masquerades of the Enigmatic Andrea Alciato

The Erotic Masquerades of the Enigmatic Andrea Alciato

In the search engines the name Andrea Alciato only refers to the Italian jurist and writer who lived in the early 16th Century. Of the enigmatic artist with the same name we discuss today, little biographical data can be found (except that he comes from Austria).


The same mystery can be found in his paintings that mainly are populated by masked figures. When I came across his painting ‘The Golden Coat‘ (Fig.2.) I immediately was reminded of an erotic design by Kitagawa Utamaro (Fig.1.).

erotic mask

Fig.1. ‘Female shamisen player getting approached by a blind male musician wearing a mask.‘ (c.1800) by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806)


This striking night scene that takes place in the open-air displays the intimacies of two shamisen* players. The (most probably blind) male is wearing a mask. They are joined by two cute puppies.

Michiel Sweerts

In a description of his work ‘The Golden Coat‘ (at Saatchi Art), Alciato explains that he became fascinated by the life and art of Michiel Sweerts (1618-1664). Sweerts was an outstanding Flemish baroque painter (Fig.4.) and printmaker. Little is known about his early life and nothing about his education. He was an avid traveller and worked in several places in Europe and the middle-east and died at the age of 46 in Goa.

erotic mask

Fig.2. ‘The Golden Coat‘ (December 2016) by Andrea Alciato (Picture by BiblioCuriosa)

Japanese Shunga Prints

Alciato notices that none of Sweerts middle-eastern work survived and he began to imagine of what would have happened if Sweerts had come across Persian erotic miniatures, or Japanese shunga prints, what certainly could have been possible. He wondered, how would Sweerts have merged the leveled stylized view of the oriental eye and the technical gimmicks and cannon of the northern 17th chiaroscuro tradition? How would the explicit intimacy look like in that multi-cultural fusion?

erotic mask

Fig.3. ‘Prima Materia III : The Almebic‘ (??) by Andrea Alciato (Picture by SaatchiArt)


Athough the Dutch-Flemish baroque painting is laden with the erotic, it is buried underneath the black velvet and white laced suspicion that constantly threatens to smother it. Alciato enjoys the broad-mindedness of shunga and Persian miniatures and its relaxed attitude to the erotic.


In his paintings, he adds masks to evoke a supernatural element to the protagonists which turns them from portraits into archetypes. They are both broad and captivating, but at the same time also a little alienating and confounding.

erotic masquerades

Fig.4. ‘L’Atelier de dessin’  (1656-1658) by Michiel Sweerts

Oriental Prince

Here the oriental prince (Fig.2.) embraces and consumes the cheerful Western showgirl in a whirl of vulgar, colorful chiaroscuro detail. It also refers to the contemporary climate in which mistrust and contempt that feeds our fears of ‘the other’, the change of demographics and mixed marriage are masked as an impenetrable cultural conflict. He suggests that maybe the beauty of Eros can help us find resolution.

More exciting art of the artist…

erotic masquerades

The Perfection of Silver

erotic masquerades

Prima Materia IV : The Primasdorff

erotic masquerades

Lilies are still Lilies

erotic masquerades

The Earthly Paradise

erotic masquerades

Alchemical Emblem: Energy Mitigated With Love

erotic mask

Prima Materia I

erotic masquerades

‘The Balance Restored

erotic masquerades

The Backgammon Players’ (2017)

erotic masquerades

Red stockings

In the last room: Behind the Stork Screen

Click HERE for more exciting modern shunga…!!!

Source: Saatchi Art

*A shamisen is a traditional Japanese three-stringed musical instrument.

As the comments below indicate, the opinions about this paintings are rather divided. What do you think?

Comment Section

8 thoughts on “The Erotic Masquerades of the Enigmatic Andrea Alciato

By Peter on 9 November 2018

A beautiful erotic painting,Golden Robe.

By Marijn on 9 November 2018

You are absolutely right Peter!

By steve miller on 9 November 2018

obvious 20th c fraud

By Marijn on 9 November 2018

How do you mean, Steve?

By Marijn on 9 November 2018

Thanks for your comment José. Why does it not appeal to you?

By steve miller on 30 November 2018

I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I said it was obviously not from the 1500s, when as you noted the person named Andrea Alciato was active. The pictures are obviously from the 20th century and why they are being associated with some Renaissance Italian jurist is unclear.

I think the painting is amusing if crude and a bit cryptic. I prefer the older Japanese paintings on your site, which I find quite interesting.

By Marijn on 30 November 2018

Thanks for your additional explanation Steve.

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