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]

Risqué Relics Inside Peru’s Erotic Art Gallery

There are plenty of museums around the world dedicated to sex. Besides the now familiar Museum of Sex in New York, the Czech Republic has a museum centered solely on sex machines and Iceland has one concentrating on the study of phallology (complete with hundreds of… ahem… male specimens). In Peru, however, an archaeological museum shows that our fascination with sex is far from a modern phenomenon.

One third of the exhibition space at Museo Larco in Lima is devoted to showcasing the world’s largest collection of ancient erotic artifacts, an aspect of pre-Columbian life that many people might turn a blind eye to. Spread throughout two rooms, the artwork is so explicit that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to enter the halls. The Moche civilization, who flourished from 100 A.D. to 800 A.D., represented pretty much every aspect of their lives in ceramics, and the ways in which they made love (and, as the exhibit shows, self love) were not exempt from being embodied in clay.

As you’ll see in the gallery below, not much of what happens behind closed doors has changed over the ages. What the erotic art gallery really teaches us is sex is a part of life, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of – although, admittedly, it is something many of the museumgoers couldn’t help but giggle at.

%Gallery-158447%

Valentine’s Day tribute: Sex museums around the world

sex museumsAh, Valentine’s Day. It’s a loaded holiday, one with high expectations. This year, though, I got into the spirit of things: I decided to rustle up a list of the world’s great sex museums. Even if you can’t pay a visit, their websites are informative and loaded with photos of exhibits. And best of all? You can indulge all by yourself, no relationship needed.

Erotic Heritage Museum, Las Vegas
The somewhat bizarre collaboration of a “Preacher and a Pornographer,” this pleasure palace houses over 17,000 square feet of artistically expressive erotica. Behold, ye Larry Flynt and “Ho-Down Mural” exhibitions.

Sex Machines Museum, Prague
Call me a perv, but how cool is this? A museum devoted entirely to the history and display of, to quote the website, “mechanical erotic appliances, the purpose of which is to bring pleasure and allow extraordinary and unusual positions during intercourse.” Okey dokey. There’s also a small theater for viewing old erotic cinema.

Museum of Sex, New York
It may not be the among the best-known of the city’s museums, but this monument to sex education, history, and cultural significance isn’t just for academics. It’s a good time, too. With rotating exhibits and virtual installations on everything from the “Sex Lives of Animals” and “Kink,” to a tribute to American pin-up photography, there’s something for everyone. Don’t forget to stop at the OralFix Aphrodisiac Cafe for an erotic elixir.

Sexmuseum Amsterdam
The Dutch are known for their rather laid-back attitude toward things the rest of the world tends to frown upon, which is one reason they’re so much fun. The famed “Venustempel” in Amsterdam is focused on “the theme of sensual love.” And hey–the four euro entry fee is a lot cheaper than the Red Light District.

Museu de l’erotica, Barcelona
Dedicated to the exploration of erotica in all its various forms: anthropological, archaeological, sociological, artistic, literary, and something called “plastic arts.” Hm. Located in Barcelona’s architecturally stunning La Rambla neighborhood.

[Photo credit: Flickr user SWANclothing]

sex museumsThe Icelandic Phallological Museum, Husavik (northern island)
This collection of over “two hundred and nine penises and penile parts” represents nearly all of the land and marine animals native to Iceland. Not as creepy as it sounds, the museum provides a base for modern research on the study of phallology. If that offends you, please consider the multi-billion-dollar male sexual enhancement/aid industry.
[Photo credit: Elín Eydís Friðriksdóttir]

World Erotic Art Museum, Miami
WEAM is home to the largest collection of erotic art in the United States, including sculpture and art objects. Rest assured it’s a lot more tasteful than what you’ll see parading on Ocean Drive.

Musee de l’Erotisme, Paris
Paris. Sex. Art. Need I say more?

China Sex Museum, Tongli
Located 50 miles outside of Shanghai in a former fishing village, this museum is dedicated to “over 9,000 years of Chinese sexual history,” with over 1,500 exhibits and artifacts. I am most definitely curious about the “Women and marriage” exhibit. Does it have a headache?

Condom Museum, Nonthaburi (approximately one hour from…hee…Bangkok)
The Ministry of Public Health opened this little museum, located in the Department of Medical Sciences building, in 2010. Its purpose is to develop awareness about HIV/AIDS and eliminate negative public perception about condom use (ironic, given that Thailand is the world’s largest producer of condoms).

If all that condomizing leaves you famished, perhaps you’d like to grab dinner at Cabbages & Condoms in Bangkok? Founder Mechai Viravaidya is a sexual awareness activist who has promoted condom use for the last 30 years. Partial proceeds go toward projects for the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). Watch Mechai give a restaurant tour and explain his mission in the below clip. Have a “safe” Valentine’s Day!


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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.