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I Modi

I Modi was a fascinating book originally printed around 1524 and perhaps one of the earliest depictions of overtly erotic art in modern Europe. Several versions have been produced since the original was made. The original I Modi was a series of 16 highly accomplished engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi, based on drawings by Giulio Romano, student of Raphael, printed from copper plates showing different sexual positions.

Posture 1 from the original I Modi
Posture 1 from the original I Modi

There is a popular story that the prints of I Modi were actually based on a series of erotic paintings that Giulio Romano was doing as a commission for Federico II Gonzaga’s new Palazzo Te in Mantua. In another version of the story Romano (in a fit of rage over pay) made the drawings on the interior walls of the Vatican that he was supposed to be decorating. These story are definitely myths. According to recent research by Bette Talvacchia, Romano gave the drawings to Marcantonio Raimondi as a parting gift when Romano left Vienna to decorate the Palazzo Te in Mantua. Raimondi then made engravings of these drawings.

The first edition of I Modi was first published by Raimondi in 1524 in Vienna and it rapidly became popular. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the Vatican found out about it and, deeming it to be obscene, demanded that all copies should be destroyed and Raimondi imprisoned. Romano did not receive any punishment, presumably because of his ties with the Vatican, though the official reason is because his erotic drawings were not meant for circulation within the public, whereas Raimondi's engravings obviously were.

In 1527, Aretino, poet and political satirist, campaigned for the release of Raimondi. I'm not sure how he achieved this since Aretino wasn't a popular figure with the Vatican, but sure enough Raimondi was released later that year.

According to a letter by Aretino, when Raimondi was released he wanted to see the drawings that had caused all this commotion. Upon seeing the original erotic drawings, Aretoni says he was filled with the same inspiration that had been felt by the original artist.

Aretino then wrote 16 erotic sonnets to accompany each of the drawings, describing the scene in each one, and I Modi was then reprinted with the 16 sonnets and engravings in 1527.

This edition proved to be even more popular than the first, spreading across Europe, which the scandal of the first edition no doubt encouraged. According to Renaissance period historian Vasari, copies of I Modi were found in the most unexpected places indicating the possession by the Vienna elite.

Sadly, every one of these copies were also destroyed by order of the Vatican.

Today, every known copy of the original I Modi has been destroyed, and all that remains is a series of nine fragments, carefully cut from the full engravings to censor anything explicit, which are currently in the British Museum, as well as two copies of Posture 1, one of which is suspected as being a forgery by Count de Waldeck.

Fortunately, we do know quite a bit about what the original I Modi looked like. In 1550 a counterfeit copy of I Modi came into circulation, however this copy was made from woodblock prints instead of engravings, and they were rather crude woodcuts as well and contained several literary errors in Aretino's sonnets.

Also, in the mid 1800's, Count de Waldeck released a series of drawings that he says were based on original tracings from I Modi.

There is also another series of erotic engravings from 1798 based on drawings by Agostino Carracci with sonnets by Aretino that for some reason Wikipedia strongly links with I Modi, though these engravings appear to be unrelated to the original edition.


I Modi Gallery



Posture 11 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 18 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850 There is no equivalent for this drawing...
Posture 05 (Polyenos and Chriseis)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 03 (Ovid and Corinna)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Hercules and Deianira

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 06 (Bacchus and Ariadne)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
A Satyr and his Wife

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Aeneas and Dido Accompanied by a Cupid

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 02 (Jupiter and Juno)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
The Satyr and the Nymph

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Fragments from the Original 1524 I Modi (Engravings)

These nine fragments are currently in the British Museum, and are all that's left of the original I Modi. From left to right: 1. Posture 7 2. Posture...
Posture 10 (Angelique and Medor)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 14 (Julia with an Athlete)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Pandora

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 15 (Achilles and Briseis)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 01 (Paris and Oenone)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 02 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 2" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Mars and Venus

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Antony and Cleopatra

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 14 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 14" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Messalina in the Booth of Lisica

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
The Cult of Priapus

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 04 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 4" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino. Two of the original I Modi fragments appear in...
Posture 08 (Alcibiades and Glycera)

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 11 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 11" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 01 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 1" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 16 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 16" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 09 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 9" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 03 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 3" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Venus Genetrix

Engraving by Jacques Joseph Coiny from "L'Aretin d'Augustin Carrache. D'après le Gravures à l'eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre" based on...
Posture 13 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 13" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 08 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 8" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 10 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 10" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 15 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 15" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 07 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 7" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 12 - I Modi Woodblock

Woodblock print of "Posture 12" from the 1550 version of I Modi Printer unknown. Sonnet by Aretino.
Posture 14 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 21 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850 There is no equivalent for this print...
Posture 07 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 05 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. This print is similar to two of the nine fragments...
Posture 04 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. Waldeck refers to this as "Posture 3" circa 1850
Posture 13 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 20 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850 There is no equivalent for this drawing...
Posture 06 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850 There is no equivalent for this drawing...
Posture 08 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 09 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 15 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 17 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 10 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 02 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 01 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 16 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 12 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850
Posture 19 - Waldeck I Modi

Brush drawing in grey wash over red chalk by Count de Waldeck based on the original 1524 I Modi. circa 1850 There is no equivalent for this drawing...





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