Ex Libris for Helene Lemberger, 1905

Franz von Bayros created a number of bookplates or Ex Libris as private commissions, but his best-known Ex Libris plates are those collected in a portfolio entitled Ex Libris die sie nicht tauschten (Bookplates They Never Received). These twenty bookplates were inspired by mythological and historical characters who stimulated the artist’s imagination to produce erotic interpretations of their stories. The portfolio was published in Vienna under the pseudonym Venu de Bonestoc.

The twenty people (or nineteen people and one dessert) celebrated are:

  • Danaë (in Greek mythology the daughter of Acrisius and Euridice, and mother of Perseus, having been desired and impregnated by Zeus)
  • Leda (she of the swan)
  • Picumnus (Roman god of fertility, agriculture, matrimony, infants and children)
  • Aëdon Polytechnos (a sculptor, the daughter of Pandareus of Ephesus, wife of Zethus and mother of Itylus)
  • Hesione, wife of Prometheus (the Roman god of fire, one of the Titans)
  • Pollux (a divine son of Zeus, and twin half-brother of Castor)
  • Aeacus (mythological king of the Greek island of Aegina, yet another offspring of Zeus by Aegina, daughter of the river god Asopus)
  • The wife of Laocoön (Laocoön was a Trojan priest who was attacked, with his two sons, by giant serpents sent by the gods, supposedly for having committed an impiety by making love with his wife in the presence of a cult image in a sanctuary; his wife remains nameless in the literature)
  • Jocasta (the wife of Oedipus, mythical Greek king of Thebes)
  • Agamemnon (king of Mycenae, brother of Menelaus, husband of Clytemnestra, and father of Iphigenia, Electra, Orestes and Chrysothemis)
  • Atalanta (a heroine in Greek mythology, a virgin huntress unwilling to marry, yet loved by Meleager)
  • Corinna (a Greek poet and musician)
  • The handmaid of Alcibiades (Alcibiades was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general)
  • Caenis (a former slave and secretary of Antonia Minor, who was the mother of the Roman emperor Claudius)
  • Gyges (a king of Lydia)
  • Theodora (wife of wife of Byzantine emperor Justinian I)
  • Queen Berenice (queen and co-regent of Ptolemaic Egypt as the wife of Ptolemy III)
  • The Countess d’Étampes (Anna, a French sixteenth-century lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Angoulème, the mother of King Francis I)
  • Ninon de Lenclos (seventeenth-century French author, courtesan, and patron of the arts)
  • Die Süssen Schneck (literally ‘sweet little snail’, a favourite German cake, made with honey and apples)

We are very grateful to Hans-Jürgen Döpp for these images; Hans-Jürgen, the compiler of many books on erotic art, curates the Venusberg online gallery and bookshop which you can find here.