‘What can you do with a penis?’ appears to have been a recurrent theme for erotic illustrators, and in this portfolio of etchings Fritz Erler was evidently in an imaginative frame of mind. He was no doubt familiar with the work of Eugène Lepoittevin and Martin van Mäele, who one might think had explored the theme as far as it would go, but along with artists of his own generation like Merényi and Pipifax he clearly felt that he had something new to offer the ‘friends of the artist only’ to whom this portfolio is dedicated.

Der heilige Priapus (Saint Priapus) is a set of twelve small-format sepia etchings presented in folder, in all of which a giant semi-erect penis together with a pair of hairy balls plays a leading role; women variously worship it, ride astride it, climb it and laugh at it. You have to admit that men’s dangly bits are very weird, and deserve a little dressing down sometimes.

It will come as little surprise that when the Berlin censors discovered an illicit copy of Der heilige Priapus it was promptly put into their cabinet of forbidden books, where only senior officials were allowed to view it.

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.