May 31, 2019
I Modi (The Ways) is perhaps the first collection of erotic drawings in the modern era. The 16 illustrations of sexual positions were published in 1524. Guiliano Romano (c. 1499-1546) drew the pictures, based on a commission from Federico II Gonzaga. Marcantonio Raimondi (c. 1475-1535) got hold of the pictures, made engravings of them and had them published. In response, Pope Clement VII had Raimondi jailed for obscenity and most of the copies of I Modi destroyed. Romano was not arrested since his work was not meant to be publicly displayed. Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) composed sonnets to accompany each drawing for the second edition in 1527. He also got Raimondi out of prison. I Modi’s second edition was also largely destroyed, however. Agostino Carracci (c. 1557-1602) made engravings about 1590, using the Raimondi drawings. Today I Modi is known through the edition created in 1798 by Jacques Joseph Coiny (1761-1809), based on the Caracci engravings. Several other editions exist, including an anonymous 1550 woodcut and one by Jean Frederic Waldeck. The Romano drawings do not survive. Only a few original fragments of the Raimondi engravings still exist.
I Modi portrays sexual positions, employing classical mythology and history. Famous lovers are depicted, like Antony and Cleopatra, as well as gods and goddesses, like Mars and Venus. The bodies of the lovers are reminiscent of Greek statuary. Settings are stage-like. Intercourse shown is both soft-core and hard-core.
I am not a fan of Renaissance painting. But there is a grace and intensity to the I Modi pictures. Fascinating works