Rembrandt's Naughtiest Works Coming to World Erotic Art Museum

Iconic Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a master of the Dutch Golden Age - not a master of golden showers. Or was he?

Probably not. But that doesn't mean he didn't create works that were considered risque for the 1600s. 

A collection of 20 of Rembrandt's etchings, which historians, curators, and collectors have dubbed his "dirty little secrets," will be on display at the World Erotic Art Museum from November 29 to March 31 in an exhibit called Rembrandt's Erotic Secrets, marking the first time all of these little-known works have been displayed together. The exhibit, which is curated by the Baron of Fulwood and Dirleton and WEAM owner and founder Naomi Wilzig, will arrive just in time for the beginning of Art Basel 2011. 

Among the works on display are A Man Making Water, which is of course an image of a man taking a pee; Adam and Eve, which captures the moment when a nude Eve persuades her equally nude counterpart to eat of the forbidden fruit; and Nude Woman Seated on a Mound, which depicts a woman with unapologetic honesty, her exposed belly sagging, her garter marks fully, and unflatteringly visible.

​Wilzig says that the artist's frankness - his refusal to sugar coat the truth of the human form - was something of a curiosity during his time. "Some people suspected that Rembrandt preferred ugliness," she said. 

The curator looks to the exhibit as a way to bring more credibility to the world of erotic art, and a way to draw attention to the existence of erotica in elite artists' work.

"It's going to be something unusual for the public to see," she said. "It'll be an awakening to another phase of his famous artwork. Everybody's familiar with the oils he did, but most people don't realize he also was a specialist in etchings, which were very difficult to do in the mid-1600s. It's a unique collection and the fact that they've never all been shown together is obviously a rare point."

Wilzig's favorite piece of the collection is The Ledikant, which depicts a man and a woman making love, and has one very puzzling feature: an extra appendage.

"[The] unique piece shows a man in clothing lying on a woman in clothing, and the woman, from the image, has three arms instead of two," Wilzig said. "She's got one arm around him from the outside, and another arm lying around him from the inside, and another arm lying there. Now this is Rembrandt who was such a perfect artist and had such an awareness of the body that it's a question in minds of people over the centuries: Was there another person there? Did he change his mind how he wanted to present the couple lying in bed? So it's a fascination, it's a unique thing."

She suggests that interested viewers manage their expectations when coming to view Rembrandt's erotic works. For their time, the artist pushed the envelop, but that doesn't mean we should expect to find hard core pornography in the mix.

"In the 1600s, simply having a bare breast on a woman or a bare chest on a man was considered erotic because they were totally clothed and ensconced in robes and pantaloons and crinolines, and the men had waist-coats and all sorts of clothing embellishments," she said. "To expose the body in that time was considered a wild, abasing thing. [So people shouldn't expect] to see all these penetration scenes, but they're unusual scenes for their time."

The show begins at the World Erotic Art Museum November 29 and runs through March 31. Tickets cost $15. Go to the museum's website or call 305-532-9336.

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.

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