Charles Mengin - Sappho (1877)

Channel 4 in the UK is currently screening a series called The Genius of British Art. Each episode is introduced by a different presenter, and last night was the turn of Howard Jacobson - the very same gentleman who recently won this year's Booker Prize for his novel, The Finkler Question.
John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs (1896)

Jacobson has a passion for Victorian art or, to be more precise, the way in which nineteenth century artists depicted their visions of sex and desire, and how such unrepressed and provocative imagery appears to stir more embarrassment today than it ever did when first created.
Etty - Candaules King of Lydia shews his wife to Gyges

We may caricature the Victorians as being prudish, self-righteous and hypocritical, but many of the erotic paintings discussed in the programme prove that they were anything but. Even Queen Victoria commissioned some of Etty's paintings as presents for Prince Albert. And, although some of the artists' works may now be considered as 'cliched', this is surely a repercussion of their very popularity - or dare the VV surmise, 'over exposure'?
Alma Tadema - The Tepidarium 

You can watch Jacobson's entertaining analysis of Victorian erotic art here
Some content is of a sexual nature. 


  1. This programme was brilliant wasn't it? I had never seen some of the paintings he used side by side before. I alwasy knew the pre-raphaelites were happy to focus on the sexuality in their works but the others were a revelation to me.

  2. Loved it, Suzie. But I can't honestly say that I share Jacobson's passion for Etty's work.

  3. Lovely! I've recently become obsessed with Ada Lovelace/Byron- I dare say she'd very much enjoy your Virtual Victorian blog. Best, Sarah

  4. Thank you, Sarah...did you see my Ada Lovelace post?


  5. As promised, here is our post:


    We hope you take it as intended. You do have a fine blog, and obviously care about it - but that just makes the outdated and slightly libellous stuff you say about Lewis Carroll all the more unfortunate. Please take this as an invitation to join us in bringing about a more rational and realistic understanding of the man. Please link to us, or to our Fcebook page and invite others to do the same.

  6. If anyone is wondering about the relevance of the previous comment, please see my two previous blog posts on Lewis Carroll:



  7. This was beautiful ~ nice to see women with meat on their bones being deemed as female perfection!!

  8. The Victorians were awfully reveling for a era that thought flesh on view was impolite.