Vintage Nude Photos On Display In Berlin’s Photography Museum

nude photos
The Museum of Photography in Berlin has just opened an exhibition of nude photos from the turn of the last century.

“The Naked Truth and More Besides Nude Photography around 1900″ brings together hundreds of nude photos from an era we normally associate with old-fashioned prudery. In fact, nude photos were incredibly popular at that time. They had existed since the earliest days of the medium, and by the 1880s it was getting much cheaper to reproduce photographs. This led to a boom in the distribution of all photos, nudes included.

Soon nudity could be seen in magazines, advertising, postcards, collectible cards found in cigarette packs and large-format posters. The exhibition looks at a range of different styles and purposes of nudes, ranging from artistic studies to the blatantly pornographic. Rural images and scenes from Classical myths were also popular, as were photos of the nudist movement, which was seeing its first wave of popularity at this time.

%Gallery-187444%The explosion in nudes led to society questioning their traditional assumptions. The marks that corsets left on the flesh made some question whether they should be worn. Homoerotica became more widespread and the first homoerotic magazine, Der Eigene, started in 1896 and published many male nudes.

People who wanted to buy or sell nude photos had to skirt the law. By dubbing the images “for artistic purposes only,” they could claim their interest wasn’t prurient, a bit like how head shops nowadays label bongs “for tobacco use only.” The police did make frequent busts, and one of the largest collections of nude photos from this era is housed at the Police Museum of Lower Saxony, which supplied many of the more risqué photos for this exhibition.

Then as now, there was a continuous debate over what was or was not obscene. Simple nudes were generally considered acceptable, especially if they were artistic studies or images of “primitive” peoples. Surprisingly, images of nude children were also more acceptable than today since they were considered images of innocence. While some child nudes are on display at the museum, none appear in this article.

“The Naked Truth and More Besides Nude Photography around 1900″ runs until August 25.

[Photo copyright Heinrich Kühn, copyright Estate of the Artist / Galerie Kicken Berlin]

Naughty Roman Frescoes Uncovered In Colosseum

Colosseum
Archaeologists working on a conservation project at the Colosseum in Rome have discovered ancient frescoes of gladiators and erotic scenes, Agence France Press reports.

The brightly colored fragments were found on the walls of a corridor currently closed to the public for restoration. The scenes show gladiators being honored with laurels. There are also erotic scenes, although the researchers didn’t go into detail about what they showed.

The popularity of erotic art in the Roman Empire has led to the perception that it was a permissive society. Actually that was only half true. Many Romans were straight-laced and sexually conservative. A good parallel is the modern United States, where a large number of people frown on public displays of nudity or sexuality, while on the other hand Americans produce and consume vast amounts of pornography. Often these are the same Americans. A 2009 study found Utah has the highest per capita consumption of online porn.

Archaeologists are still working on uncovering the delicate pictures and hope to have them preserved and on view to the public by 2014.

Ancient, Renaissance, and early modern graffiti was also found, raising the question of how old graffiti has to be before it stops being vandalism and starts being of historic interest.

The Colosseum has been quickly decaying in recent years, with bits falling off and archaeologists discovering that the building is beginning to lean.

[Image of gladiator fresco from the Roman amphitheater in Mérida, Spain courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Erotic bathhouse art in Pompeii

Visitors to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii are already familiar with the eye-popping art in the brothel, but most miss another naughty site–Pompeii’s suburban baths.

The changing room in these baths had cubbyholes for storing clothing. Each one was decorated with lively scenes of straight sex, group sex, oral sex, and just plain acrobatic sex. The example to the right, with two men and one woman enjoying each other’s company, is a typical example.

While many Roman baths segregated men and women, this suburban bath was a mixed one, so perhaps it served as a place for amorous trysts. Another theory is that the pictures were advertisements for prostitutes. Both men and women in ancient Rome uses prostitutes, although of course the majority of customers were men. A third theory holds that the pictures were a way to make the customers remember where they left their clothes.

“Where’s my toga? Ah yes, in the cubbyhole with the bisexual orgy.”

A large amount of erotic art has been found in Pompeii, from explicit graffiti to phallic dinnerware, and the city had a reputation for looseness before Mt. Vesuvius erupted and covered it with ash in 79 AD. The ash preserved many artifacts and buildings, making Pompeii and her sister city Herculaneum two of the archaeological treasures of the world.

The baths were closed for decades after their discovery, first out of prudishness and then for conservation work. Only small groups with special permission may enter, so you’ll need to book through a tour. You can check out all the images here, and if you want to wander through the city check out Pompeii on Google Street View.

Second chance for swinger cruise

It’s not the waves that are rocking the boat. This year, YOLO Cruises is bringing back its swingers trip. Since you only live once (YOLO), the reasoning goes, you should get out on the water and work up a sweat.

YOLO’s last Swingers Cruise trip was a bit controversial, but that hasn’t stopped the company from giving it another run. It’s chartered a Carnival vessel for a three-night voyage to the Bahamas, which is set to depart Miami on October 29, 2010. Once you cross into international waters, there are no rules, aside from common sense (so bring a little protection). At $399 a person, this is a great way to enjoy what YOLO’s offering: “playful, sexually themed parties, cruise activities and shore excursions.”

What’s on the itinerary? Well, there’s the “Carnal Cravings Halloween Ball, which is followed by a “naked and recuperating day” at sea. But, some of the fun is a little less structured … after all, this is a trip for swingers.

The last YOLO swingers trip, according to company president Marlene Brustle, offered “an open, erotic atmosphere,” which seems to be the goal this time around, too.

Erotic art exhibit bares all

When you think of art exhibits, you probably don’t think of scenes of group sex, gigantic phalli, and barnyard animals, but the Eros exhibition ain’t your grandma’s art show.

In fact, when this art was made, your grandma wouldn’t be born for another two thousand years.

The Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece, has just opened “Eros: From Hesiod’s Theogony to Late Antiquity”. This exhibition is dedicated to ancient love in all its manifestations from the early years of Greek civilization to the waning of the Classical world during the decline of the Roman Empire. It includes 272 artifacts from fifty museums in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and France, and will run for six months.

Eros was the god of love, but he was also the god of lust, jealousy, and all the other good and bad emotions connected with desire. One statue shows him dragging Psyche, the goddess of the soul, by the hair and hitting her with a mallet. That sums it up nicely.

The ancient Greeks were anything but prudes. The civilization that gave us theater, literature, poetry, and the ideals of democracy liked things a bit raw. Their art was full of images of sex, from the more vanilla varieties involving husbands and wives to older men with young athletes to randy farmers doing objectionable things with the livestock.

The Romans were more prudish than the Greeks, but still made room for the randy side of life. Although they turned Eros from a lascivious young man into a cute innocent cherub, their art often expressed deeper urges.

This exhibit isn’t like what you’d see in the Amsterdam Sex Museum; it’s history with a point. It shows us that the two great Western civilizations that created the foundation for our own culture weren’t all that different from us. Sure, they didn’t have the Internet, but they made up for it with paintings, poetry, and sculpture. The things that some people get shocked by nowadays have always been around. They aren’t a sign of the decline of morality or the approaching Armageddon. They are, like it or not, part of the human condition.