29 Photos Of Erotic Art Throughout History, From Egyptian Papyruses To The Ruins Of Pompeii
Depictions Of Sex In Ancient Civilizations Around The World
Erotic art is not limited to one time period, culture, or even location. Examples have been found from China, Japan, and India to Egypt, Greece, and Peru.
According to Sotheby’s, sexual art first emerged in China during the Han Dynasty, around 206 B.C.E., and it became more widespread throughout the region over the centuries. Paintings of nude women in baths and couples engaged in sex acts were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they provide art historians with insight into what Chinese people saw as beautiful and erotic at the time.
In nearby Japan, Shunga was a type of art that depicted sensual acts on woodblock prints. It was outlawed in the country in 1722 — but that didn’t stop its production.
India’s history with erotic art is perhaps best known by the Kama Sutra, the Sanskrit guide to sex from around 400 B.C.E. to 200 C.E. The text wasn’t initially illustrated, though many artists have since put their spin on the work.
See also Homosexuality in the Ancient World
Wikimedia CommonsOnly fragments of ancient Egypt’s Turin Erotic Papyrus exist, but what has been discovered leaves little to the imagination.
Additionally, the Khajuraho temples that were built in central India between 950 and 1050 C.E. depict many sex acts between men, women, and animals. According to author Theodore Carter, some historians believe that people traveled to the temples to learn about sex.
Ancient Egypt had the 8.5-foot-long Turin Erotic Papyrus, a scroll painting with 12 vignettes depicting a variety of sex positions that dates to around 1150 B.C.E. And the Moche civilization of Peru created pottery of people engaged in anal sex as early as 100 C.E.
However, some of the most famous depictions of erotic art are from the ancient Greek and Roman periods — and much of it came to light during the excavations of Pompeii.