Der Phönix (The Phoenix) was one of the first erotic portfolios to appear in the relatively ‘new age’ of German press freedom in the early 1900s. Published by the Münchner Verlag in 1909, it brought together representative prints from many of the most important print designers of the time, including seven from Munich, but also Jules Pascin from France, Constantin Somoff from Russia and Minori Yasuda from Japan. It was issued in six monthly parts, each containing two prints, the complete set of twelve being protected by a printed card cover.
The twelve prints vary enormously in style, demonstrating the various strands of erotic art of the period, but they have in common a no-holds-barred approach to sexual encounter which was almost designed to shock.
Hugo Hayn and Alfred Gotendorf, in their nine-volume Bibliotheca Germanorum Erotica und Curiosa (1912–14), wrote of Der Phönix ‘All the plates are characterised by unheard-of boldness and exuberance. However, the work in an edition of 400 copies was soon confiscated and mostly destroyed.’
This copy of Der Phönix, with the number 20 (suggesting an early and enthusiastic subscriber), was part of the collection of Sieglinde and Karl Ludwig Leonhardt, which was sold at auction by Pierre Bergé in Paris in December 2009; it was sold again at auction by Nösbusch & Stucke in Berlin in January 2016. It appears to be one of the very few complete copies to have survived.
The artists represented and the titles of their works are:
Albert Weisgerber (Munich) Liebespiel (Love Game)
Heinrich Kley (Karlsruhe) Centaurenpaar (Centaur Couple)
Constantin Somoff (St Petersburg) Marquise und Pierrot (Marquise and Pierrot)
Jules Pascin (Paris) Maison de Rendezvous (Meeting House)
Hubert Wilm (Munich) Rast (Repose)
Otto Kopp (Munich) Auf Lesbos (On Lesbos)
Franz Christophe (Berlin) Der erste Unterricht (The First Lesson)
Minori Yasuda (Tokyo) Die Hand (The Hand)
Gustav Jagerspacher (Munich) Ein Traum (A Dream)
Carl Józsa (Munich) Frühlings-Erwachen (Spring Awakening)
Karl Arnold (Munich) Der Händler (The Dealer)
Willi Geiger (Munich) Dem starken Mann (The Strongman)
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.