Size / Format: 14 x 21 cm / 5.5” x 8.5”
Pages / Seiten: 112
Images / Illustrations: 100
English, German, Français, Español, Italiano
In France at the end of the eighteenth century, Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, hired an artist to illustrate his collected writings. This edition, published in 1797, contained 101 copper engravings with sex scenes, most of them of a sadomasochistic leaning. At the time, such “cochonneries” (obscenities) brought one directly into a dungeon. For this reason, most artists in the erotic genre remained anonymous, something which makes it difficult today to ascribe authorship.
The Marquis de Sade, born in Paris in 1740, a relative of the French royal family, is known to this day as perversion personified. He grew up in the care of an uncle, and became an officer in the carabineer regiment. After fighting in the Seven Years’ War, however, he radically changed his lifestyle, and the Marquis quickly squandered his entire fortune in gambling rooms and on mistresses. His parents then married him to a wealthy woman, but this did nothing to hold him back from various extramarital relationships.
De Sade associated with prostitutes, and is also said not only to have regularly compelled servants and maids to perform sexual acts, but – even worse at that time – also “blasphemous” acts. It was because of this lifestyle change, officially labelled “lewd”, that in 1765 he was imprisoned for the first time. Unrepentant, though, afterwards he continued to throw orgies. He did not always invite people to this orgies, instead at times taking advantage of his social position to force them to participate. In 1768 he was denounced for the serious abuse and whipping of a lady, but was able to avoid a trial by paying an indemnity.
Following this, two prostitutes made the allegation that De Sade had used an aphrodisiac to make them compliant for group sex and anal intercourse. This time the Marquis had to flee – he hastened away to Italy, taking his young sister-in-law with him. He was sentenced to death in his absence. In 1777 he returned to Paris and was arrested, though his death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. It was during his incarceration that he wrote the most part of his works. Knowing how offensive his writings were to both the moral and religious norms of the times, he attempted not to draw attention to himself through high paper use, and wrote everything in tiny handwriting. In 1789, with the storming of the Bastille, De Sade was freed, but many of his writings were destroyed in the revolutionary turmoil.
As a noble person, De Sade was unwilling to adapt to the social changes of the revolution, and was incarcerated once again and for the second time sentenced to death. As a result of Robespierre’s fall in 1794, however, he escaped the guillotine, and finally came free from prison, only to be sent a short time later to a lunatic asylum because of his debts and a lawsuit. The diagnosis was “insanely obsessed with vice”. His death in 1814, at least, was “natural” by the standards of his time.
The Marquis de Sade’s writings have since experienced a great deal: they have been forbidden, burnt, banned, censored, and interpreted by notable psychologists and writers. This is not surprising since they are complex, contain shocking scenes between all genders, as well as humiliation, sodomy, incest and murder, hemmed with moral-philosophical discussions, anti-clericalism and justifications for (his) radical egoism. In the age of YouPorn, however, De Sade’s scandalous writings are far below the arousal threshold that their image would lead us to assume.