Liebesgeflüster (Whisper of Love), 1878

There was something about naked little cupids in the 1880s, far enough removed from the Cupid of classical mythology, the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection to make it a socially-acceptable expression of sexuality without actually admitting such urges.

In 1881 the very respectable Munich publisher Adolf Ackermann commissioned Heinrich Lossow to produce a series of engravings featuring tasteful female nudes with appropriate attendant cupids, with the title Götterdekameron (God’s Decameron), thus neatly referencing both Boccaccio and Wagner. Subtitled Ein Mythologischer Bilderscherz con Amore gezeichnet (A Mythological Satire Drawn with Love), the twelve detailed engravings show Lossow at the height of his skill.

For anyone interested, the twelve subjects are titled Cupid, Amphitrite, Lorelei, Leda, Io, Danae, Ariadne, Venus Bound, Bacchante, Cupid of the Hunt, Cupid Fishing, and Cupid Triumphant.