The series of satirical lithographs we’re going to look at is ascribed to two famous printmakers Achille Devéria and Eugène Lepoittevin. Marijn’s already published an article on Devéria’s works and biography, so the current post is accompanied by biographic facts on Eugène Lepoittevin (1806-1870).
Fig. 1. Portrait of Eugène Lepoittevin by Nadar circa 1861-1869 (Wikipedia.org)
Called by Many Names
Lepoittevin was a French maritime painter and caricaturist. He was born in Paris in a family of Nicolas Potdevin, who moved to Paris from Normandy and became a chief cabinetmaker at the Palace of Versailles. The surname “Potdevin” went through many transformations: Poidevin, Poitevin, and then Lepoittevin. The supposed producer of diabolic engravings signed his works with lots of variations of his name: Eugène Le Poitevin, Eugène Lepoittevin, Eugène Le Poittevin, Édouard Le Poittevin, E. Lepoittevin.
Fig. 2. The Castaways (1839), Amiens , Picardy museum (Wikipedia.org)
Studies and Career
At the age of 20, Lepoittevin enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts. He was an avid traveler and prolific painter. His legacy consists of the depictions of landscapes and history paintings. From 1831, he was regularly exhibiting at the Paris Salon.
Fig. 3. Naval battle won in front of the island of Embro, 1346 (1849), Versailles , Museum of the History of France (Wikipedia.org)
The Legion of Honor
In 1843, Lepoittevin became a knight of the Legion of Honor, which is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits founded by Bonaparte. Six years later, he was awarded Peintre de la Marine title (Painter of the Fleet), which was set up in 1830 to honor the maritime artists.
Fig. 4. The Fisherman’s Return, 1848 (britishmuseum.org)
Lepoittevin was also a productive caricaturist publishing in La Caricature. He is claimed to be an author of several albums of erotic lithographs depicting human and devil encounters involving a set of poses and devices, which makes these books close to Ungerer’s “Fornicon.” This topic predictably was of great popularity, so Lepoittevin was not the only artist who produced these “amoral” designs. In 1835, the album “Diabolico Foutro Manie” attributed to Achille Devéria was released. Eventually, opuses of Lepoittevin and Devéria got entangled. Designs signed with an LP monogram and thus clearly belonging to Lepoittevin are funny but not explicit. The erotic ones expectably are unsigned as well as those of Devéria. So, it’s hard to distinguish one from another, even for the editors of erotic anthologies.
Fig. 5. Lepoittevin’s book binding (blogspot.com)
Fig. 6. Lepoittevin’s lithograph with a monogram (blogspot.com)
Fig. 7. Lepoittevin’s unsigned lithograph (blogspot.com)
Fig. 8. Page from Erotica Universalis with a lithograph attributed to Devéria
Colossus of Rhodes
The picture attributed both to Leppoitevin and Devéria depicts a sabbat orgy with devils and maidens. At the center of the engraving, there’s a woman in a pose of Colossus of Rhodes functioning like an artificial waterfall. This parody reminds us of one by Kuniyoshi. However, it seems to be more surprising because the traditional symbol of masculinity is female, but it looks as monumental as the original. Gilles Néret attributes this piece to Devéria in Erotica Universalis Taschen’s book, while at shishigami.com the picture is included in Lepoittevin’s “Les Diableries Erotiques” album.
Fig. 9. The same lithograph from shishigami.com
The attribution gets more complicated due to the censorship destruction of these works. The problem was not even in obscenity but mainly in the sacrilegious tone of pictures with genitalia on the cross and other inappropriate details. Lepoittevin’s album “Charges et discharges diaboliques” drawn for Guerrier in 1830, was condemned for destruction by the judgment of the Court of Assizes of the Seine, dated April 29, 1845.
Fig. 10. The cover of the book attributed to Achille Devéria (presbytere.typepad.com)
Fig. 11. Page from “Diabolico Foutro Manie” (presbytere.typepad.com)
Fig. 12. L’anneau d’Hans Carvel, Achille Devéria, 1830 (britishmuseum.org)
Priapism and Satanism
Gilles Néret opens the chapter devoted to Devéria, Lepoittevin, and Fendi with an interesting remark on the medieval and romantic visions of the devil. The medieval one made the devil a participant of a theological argument on God, world, good and evil. We also can refer to the medieval legend about Faust, who sold his soul to Mephistopheles hardly because he wanted to seduce Margaret as in Goethe’s poem. The original character interacted with the devil because of his willingness to learn the arcana of the universe. The romantic vision has its’ ground in the pagan cults of Priapus and Pan. At first sight, this statement seems to be logical enough. However, the cultural history proves its’ wrongness because the integration of pagan and Christian literature began already in the later years of the medieval period (e. g. in Divina Commedia).
Fig. 13. Left: Lithograph attributed to Lepoittevin, ca. 1830 (shishigami.com). Right: Füssli “The Nightmare”, 1781 (Wikipedia.org)
Fig. 14. shishigami.com
Fig. 15. Colored drawings attributed to Lepoittevin (wordpress.com)
Fig. 16. The New Cup and Ball (erotica universalis, p. 449)
Fig. 17. Lithograph attributed to Lepoittevin with a vulva on the cross (shishigami.com)
Fig. 18. shishigami.com
Fig. 19. Good and Evil (erotica universalis, p. 463)
Fig. 20. The Loss of a Member (erotica universalis, pp. 456-457)
Fig. 21. shishigami.com
Fig. 22. Deflowering (erotica universalis, pp. 450-451)
Fig. 23. The Tree of Life (erotica universalis, p. 445)
Fig. 24. Central drawing: “Everyone shall have one!” (shishigami.com)
Fig. 25. An orgy with fellatio and a phallic snail (shishigami.com)
Fig. 26. Riding a flying phallus (shishigami.com)
Fig. 27. Diabolic Dew (erotica universalis, pp. 460-461)
Fig. 28. Left: Devéria “Diabolico Foutro Manie”, 1835 (erotica universalis, p. 438). Right: Lepoittevin, c. 1830 (shishigami.com)
Fig. 29. Acrobatic sabbat (shishigami.com)
Fig. 30. The lovers’ whirlwind with Priapus/Satan at the center (shishigami.com)
Sources: Wikipedia.org; shishigami.com; presbytere.typepad.com; monsterbrains.blogspot.com; Gilles Néret. Erotica Universalis, 1994; britishmuseum.org.
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