The multi-talented artist Pierre Noël, who under the pseudonym Léon Pierre illustrated several volumes of whipping literature for Jean Fort’s Collection des Orties Blanches (White Nettle Collection) in the 1930s, was a prolific and much-sought-after illustrator. Why he chose to bend his talents to the transgressively erotic themes requested by Fort is not easy to imagine, though during the roaring thirties the most successful publisher of erotica of the time was probably finding it hard to recruit enough competent artists.

Noël grew up in Troyes in north-east France, and studied drawing in the Paris studios of René Lelong and Louis-François Biloul, then at the École des Beaux-Arts. His first interest was as a marine and military artist, but his skill as a book illustrator was what kept him the busiest. In 1927 he was commissioned by Éditions Kieffer to illustrate Balzac’s La connestable, and the following year was approached by Éditions Mornay for illustrations to Claude Farrère’s Thomas l’Agnelet and Flaubert’s Salammbô.

The Boat Trip, 1938

During his lifetime Pierre Noël illustrated more than a hundred works, including classic and modern literature, illustrated history and children’s books.

Using his Léon Pierre alter ego, Noël illustrated three Fort titles –Mrs Goodwhip et son esclave (Mrs Goodwhip and Her Slave) and Diana gantée (Diana in Gloves) in 1932, and Le harem océanien (The Oceanian Harem) in 1935. We have only included the first of these, partly because the quality of the others is no credit to Noël’s talent, and partly because Le harem océanien is even more suspiciously racist than Mrs Goodwhip.