The Triumph of Eros: Art and Seduction in 18th Century France explores themes of love and eroticism in 18th century French art from the rich collections of The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The impetus for this exhibition, and at its core, is a recently discovered collection of rare French erotic engravings collected in the 19th century probably in secret by Tsar Nicolas I. The collection has never been seen outside St Petersburg.
The French 18th century is familiar to us as the Age of Reason but it was also an age of passion, desire and seduction. The many aspects of erotic desire were explored by artists and devoured by connoisseurs, private collectors and the French public alike.
The exhibition begins by examining the extraordinary resurgence of interest in the ancient Roman and Greek god of erotic passion Cupid, or Eros, in 18th century French visual culture.
The show also probes the ways in which the erotic in 18th century French art could easily slip over into the pornographic, the decent into the indecent. Works of art by Lancret, Nattier and Fragonard, have been chosen to explore the nature of disorderly passion, voyeurism and sexual licence, pushing at the boundaries of what was, and perhaps still is, deemed aesthetically acceptable.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated colour catalogue published by Fontanka with essays by scholars and curators from The State Hermitage Museum and the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House Web Site