PRINT April 1974


Erotic Art of the West

Robert Melville, Erotic Art of the West (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973), 318 pages, 30 colorplates, over 200 black-and-white illustrations.

ROBERT MELVILLE HAS BEEN WORKING on this study intermittently for many years. The guiding motto of his text is provided by certain lines from Baudelaire’s Salons in which the poet adumbrates an imaginary Museum of Love. Here

there would be a place for everything, from S. Theresa’s undirected affections down to the serious debaucheries of the ages of ennui. No doubt an immense distance separates Le Depart pour l’île de Cythère from the miserable daubs which hang above a cracked pot and a rickety side table in a harlot’s room; but with a subject of such importance nothing should be neglected.

Melville’s text is ahistorical, a fantasia which leads us from theme to theme—the Act of Love, Varieties of Love, the Object of Desire, and so on—taking each

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