Pierre Louÿs, a sketch by Henry Bataille

The extraordinarily prolific writer and poet Pierre Louÿs wrote hundreds of poems during his short productive period between 1896, when his most famous work, Aphrodite, appeared, and 1906 when he virtually stopped publishing. Of that vast output, at least half of his poems were on one of his favourite themes – sex.

Illustrated collections of Louÿs’ erotic poetry appeared throughout the 1930s and 40s, including editions illustrated by Marcel Vertès, Berthommé Saint André, and here by Feodor Rojankovsky. The erotic poems of Pierre Louÿs free both imagination and desire, and Rojan’s quickly-drawn illustrations are a perfect complement to the poems. Sexuality for both poet and illustrator is a playful and orgiastic pleasure.

An illustration from the 1927 printing

A first edition of the Rojan-illustrated Poésies érotiques was published in 1927 by René Bonnel in a limited edition of just 69 copies; this version contained 71 coloured illustrations. This was followed in 1932 by a second Bonnel edition of 165 copies, then in 1937 by the edition shown here, with 73 red-ochre illustrations, in a numbered limited edition of 300 copies.