Of all of Royo’s prolific output, we have chosen to include just one series, his 2000–2014 Prohibited books. This is partly because they are probably his most explicitly sexual, partly because unlike many of his books all four books in the series are now out of print, and partly because they showcase a range of his artistic styles, from over-the-top vivid and detailed paintings to delicate preliminary sketches. Interestingly, Royo fans seem to either love or hate the Prohibited books, reader reviews ranging from ‘The paintings and drawings are beautifully erotic, full of sensitivity and depth; I’m glad Royo is moving further in this direction’ to ‘A grave disappointment after the fine work displayed in Malefic; shame on whoever took part in this puerile stuff!’ You can judge for yourself.
Though the Prohibited books are primarily display-cases for Royo’s artwork, they also contain rather flowery and disjointed text, written by Royo, to accompany the illustrations. Unfortunately the text in the original Norma edition is only in Spanish and Portuguese; a Soleil edition provides it in French, but there is no English-language edition of Prohibited. The introduction to Volume 1 invites he reader ‘to throw off your tight and uncomfortable clothes so you are free of the limitations of nightshirts and pyjamas. Now press the fingers of your right hand languorously against your lips which you have moistened with your tongue. Slowly massage each part of your neck, and continue down to your breast, opening your hand as you go … ’ We know where this is going.
The paintings in Volume 1 have no common theme, but include some interesting and unusual Royo images, including a Salome-like severed head scene and one of Royo’s few homoerotic artworks.
We have only shown here a selection of images from the book; if you want to see them all you will need to locate an increasingly rare copy on the second-hand market.