Vintage erotic photography 1845-1920 gallery

The photos are roughly in chronological order...

Anonymous c.1850

The earliest I can find with black stockings. There is something odd about the foreshortening of the left arm and the way it holds the hip. It seems disconnected, and her hand is definitely one that has known hard work. The early lenses were fairly primitive, and the effect is like having the flat vision of a one eyed person.

Anonymous, possibly Belloc or Goulin, 1850-52

This is the right side of a stereoscopic daguerreotype. Very skillfully hand coloured.

Anonymous c.1855

A hand coloured stereoscopic daguerreotype. The two images are not exact replicas of each other and the slight variation created the illusion of three dimensions.

Anonymous c.1855

Not the first scene of lesbianism, but unusual in that it was taken from above. I am unsure whether it has been slightly damaged or the fading out of the faces and feet is deliberate (maybe to protect their identities?).

Anonymous c.1855

No attempt at disguise here! Probably agonising to hold as a pose, but the hair...mon dieu! Very alluring...

Anonymous c.1855

Harps seem to feature fairly regularly in early erotic photography. Maybe its the suggestion of an instrument that needs to be straddled in order to play it, but in this shot it takes a back seat (excuse the pun) to a sumptuous backside. "There is nothing so precious or delicious in the whole of the tender sex as a beautiful female derriere". Gilles Neret

Anonymous c.1855

Very unusual voyeuristic scene. The most common photos of the period with a man and a woman in them were usually blatantly pornographic.

Anonymous c.1855

Pearls are always a nice accessory for the undressed woman.

Anonymous c.1855

Again, a very unusual voyeur photo, probably by the same photographer as before. There may have been bushels of real grass in the studio in front of a painted back drop. Here the remnants of a picnic are seen lower right. Bottle, cutlery, umbrella while a pair of intertwined shoe soles are seen by the spectator. Unusually subtle.

Anonymous c.1855

Taking a leak possibly in the same studio. Even an artist as esteemed as Rembrandt did some etchings on this theme 200 years earlier.

Anonymous c.1870

This represents an innovation in technology with a move away from glass prints to photos printed on paper or card. Perhaps it is evocative of the constellation Sextans.

Emil Goldschmidt, c. 1890

Cameo style oval hand coloured print, somewhat crossing a line between painting and photography. Nice lighting, but you can see where the model has been unable to keep her head still throughout the length of the exposure. Emil specialised in more decorative Art Nouveau style imagery so this is a departure from the norm.

Leopold Reutlinger, c.1890

A very famous erotic photograph that has appeared in many publications. Leo photographed many of the most famous Parisians of the era, and while there is a resemblance to the dancer Cleo de Merode the model remains unknown. Curiously a detail (of the face) also turns up as the cover of the historical novel Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende. HarperCollins using public domain images for their book covers? Tut tut...

Anonymous c.1900

Parisians of the day had a fascination with all things exotic. In particular there are large collections of Orientalist photos of mainly topless Moroccan women. This Japanese trio seem very intent on what they are reading with no attempt at all to engage the viewer, which is a departure from most of what we have seen before. A bit of erotic trivia for you if you are looking at Japanese prints. Courtesans wore their kimonos tied at the front, 'ladies' tied at the back.

Vincenzo Galdi, c.1900

Oh, the bother of it all! Vincenzo was a photographer and model who was also a lover of Wilhelm von Pluschow, another photographer of nudes of men and women. They were both interested in the 'naturist' movement and as a consequence of this and advances in technolgy we see the first outdoor photos, often in a  pseudo classical style.

Studio J. Mandel, c.1905

More of the same but back in the studio. This kind of imagery influenced many subsequent photographers, both professional and amateur who were keen to present their work as 'art' rather than smut.

Anonymous c.1914

Mirrors crop up quite a bit, often used as a device to give the viewer twice the amount of titillation. In this however, the girl is simply using it to admire herself, or to help with the back lighting. Languorous...and possibly dangerous...

Anonymous c.1915

This is the first that could have been taken by an amateur rather than a professional photographer. Certainly no attempt at luxurious studio surroundings. But it has an honesty to it that charms...

E. J. Bellocq, c.1915

Bellocq was an American photographer who is best known for his photos of the prostitutes of New Orleans just prior to the shutting down of the red light district in Storyville by the US military after America's entrance into the First World War. Many of his models wore masks and it is assumed that he was the one who literally defaced pictures like this. Why, we don't know, but it does create a mysterious effect.

Red Cheney Johnston, c.1915

Johnston was a New York photographer who specialised in photographing the Ziegfeld Follies girls and other actresses of the time. A precursor to Hollywood glamour.

Anonymous c.1920

Have already mentioned pearls but this girl is really stranded. The photographer has thoughtfully left off any clothing lest she appear over dressed. Nice back lighting too...

Rudolf Koppitz, c.1920

Koppitz was a Czech photographer based in Vienna and much influenced by the Secessionists like Gustav Klimt, also the Symbolist and Constructivist aesthetics. This severe and unusual composition features dancers and cast members of the Vienna State Opera.  

Anonymous c.1920

Another well known photo. I am sure the young man is thinking of something other than a bicycle seat between the legs of his friend. Cute, but not too sacharin... 

Anonymous c. 1920

I'll just finish this newspaper before dressing, and lets hope he doesn't burn the toast again...

Anonymous c. 1920

Got a light?

Anonymous c. 1920

Oh, I am so tired! And who wouldn't be reading Remedies for a Modern Life...

Anonymous c. 1920

And finally the secretary gets rewarded for not using the company phone for private calls...