ARTS & CULTURE
02/15/2017 11:46 am ET

Some Of History's Naughtiest Artworks Head To Sotheby's First Erotic Sale

From Picasso's Cubist nude to a table with boobs and penises, Sotheby's gets nasty.

Warning: This post contains images of erotic artwork. Very, very, very erotic artwork that may not be suitable for your workplace.

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Pablo Picasso, "Nu couché," 1972. Pencil on paper, 13.6 x 20.3 cm. (Est. £60,000 to £80,000.)

For the first time in its nearly 275-year-long existence, Sotheby’s is hosting an exclusively erotic art sale.

Taking place just two days after Valentine’s Day in London, the unprecedented sale will showcase works from artists like Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele, Camille Bombois and Ettore Sottsass. Chock-full of recognizable Cubist nudes, decadent topless Renaissance scenes and the occasional phallic sculpture, the collection set to hit the auction block serves as a wild survey of the naughtiest depths of art history not often seen in the halls of such a storied institution.

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A painted plywood table, after that supposedly delivered to Catherine the Great, modern. (Est. £15,000 to £20,000.)

The sale, it turns out, is also a rousing lesson on the alleged sexual proclivities of Catherine the Great. 

Yes, included among the 107 artworks in Sotheby’s “Erotic: Passion and Desire” sale ― many of which come from the West, though a selection have origins in Asia ― lot No. 74 is a copy of a table adorned with penises, vaginas and breasts, a bizarre artifact that was allegedly delivered to Catherine II during her reign in Russia. The iconic leader, rumored to have had a soft spot for erotic decor, purportedly stashed the explicit piece of furniture in a private apartment that was later destroyed in a palace bombing. Or so the tall tales go.

Its modern replica is available now for a cool $18,000 to $25,000.

Other notable, non-Western selections from the sale include a series of shunga ― erotic prints from Japan’s Edo period ― and a number of NSFW Turkish and Indian images from the 1700s.

Much of the sale’s offerings put naked women at the forefront, a trend not uncommon to, well, all of art history. From a 17th-century painting of Jupiter-disguised-as-Diana seducing Callisto to a pin-up portrait from 1969, only one of the works below features a nude man ― though a few disembodied phalluses appear along with men engaging in sexual acts with women. The selection of images below represents but a fraction of the actual sale, though the broader gender imbalance remains. Few works on sale were created by women.

One significant exception is a work by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a London-based artist of Ghanaian descent. The painting features a figure of ambiguous gender who stares defiantly at the viewer amidst a sea of red pigment, which can be seen on Sotheby’s website.

To get a preview of Sotheby’s historic erotic sale, check out the images below. 

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Nicolaes Pietersz, Berchem and studio, "Jupiter disguised as Diana seducing the nymph Callisto," 1620-1683. (Est. £30,000 to £40,000.)
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Egon Schiele, "Akt (Nude)," 1917. (Est. £180,000 to £250,000.)
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A couple making acrobatic love on a lake, Mewar, North India, 18th century. (Est. £2,000 to £3,000.)
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Jacques Loysel, "La Grande Névrose," circa 1896. White marble. (est. £120,000 to £180,000.)
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Gil Elvgren, "Modest Maneuver," 1969. (Est. £25,000 to £35,000.)
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Camille Bombois, "Baigneuses surprises (Suprised bathers)," 1930. (Est. £30,000 to £40,000.)
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Lucian Freud, "Man Posing," 1985. (Est. £15,000 to £20,000.)
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Follower of Reverend Matthew William Peters, "Portrait of Miss Mortimer as Hebe." (£6,000 to £8,000.)
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Marc Quinn, "Maquette for Siren," 2008. (Est. £70,000 to £90,000.)
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Ettore Sottsass, "Shiva" vase, designed 1973. (Est. £200 to £300.)
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A loving couple watched by a maiden, North India, circa 1700-1740. (Est. £3,000 to £4,000.)
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Mel Ramos, "Tomato Catsup; Tobacco Red; Lola Cola; and A.C. Annie," 1971-1972. (Est. £5,000 to £7,000.)
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An exceptional carved mahogany bed, second half 19th century. (Est. £500,000 to £800,000.)

Items in “Erotic: Passion & Desire” will go on sale at Sotheby’s in London on Feb. 16.

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