Martha, gezeichnet nach einem tugendhaften Mädchen von Benjamin Schmolke (Martha, Drawings of a Virtuous Young Woman by Benjamin Schmolke) is among Schoff’s earliest work. Clearly drawn from life, it is a straightforward and honest set of images of a woman exploring her own body and pleasuring herself; what is probably most remarkable for the period is the relative absence (apart from the title sheet) of penises. Given that the portfolio was made more than a century ago, it has a very modern feel.

The choice of pseudonym is interesting, in that Schoff appears to be making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the devout eighteenth-century Lutheran hymn-writer Benjamin Schmolk (1672–1737). The most popular hymnist of his age, Schmolk was an avowed pietist, a movement which emphasised individual devotion and living a vigorous Christian life. There is certainly a great deal of devotion and vigour in Schoff’s tender drawings.

Martha was privately published in a limited numbered edition of just 20 copies. At least one set was hand-coloured by Schoff.

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.