Gamiani, first published in 1833 and generally believed to have been written by Alfred de Musset, is one of the most-illustrated of French erotic novels. Subtitled ‘Two Nights of Excess’, and based on de Musset’s experiences with George Sand and her lesbian lover, Gamiani opens with Alcide watching Countess Gamiani and her young lover Fanny enjoying one another’s bodies. Very much aroused, Alcide reveals himself and joins them, and they spend the rest of their time together sharing their intimate stories and re-enacting scenes from them. The unsigned plates from the first illustrated edition of Gamiani have been variously attributed to Achille Devéria and Octave Tassaert.
The anonymous set of plates shown here, from an edition published around 1950, are in the reddish-ochre ink known as ‘sanguine’, and though not of the highest calibre are highly competent. They have been attributed to Suzanne Ballivet, probably based on that assertion in the Hobart & Maclean ‘The Forbidden Library’ exhibition catalogue of 1986, but though one or two of the women’s faces have a certain similarity to her distinctive style there is nothing else to support the attribution.
Gamiani has been constantly in print in French; if you would like to read it in English then either the edition published in 2003 by the Erotic Print Society (with illustrations by Vania Zouravliov) or the one published by Harper Perennial in 2007 are both reasonable translations.