Sónnica la cortesana (Sonnica the Courtesan) is the fourteenth of more than forty novels by the popular Spanish author Vicente Blasco-Ibáñez. Published in 1901, it is set in the ancient Greek city of Sagunto in 219BC during the siege of the city by the Carthaginians under the command of Hannibal, famous for crossing the Alps with his elephants. The beautiful courtesan of the title, Sonnica, catches the eye of the Greek hero Actaeon, and the action includes a good deal of naked pleasure in Sagunto’s baths and brothels. Actaeon takes a leading role in the defence of the city against the Carthaginians, but despite the defenders’ best efforts Sagunto finally falls to the enemy.

De Becque was clearly impressed by Blasco-Ibáñez’s rousing narrative, and took it upon himself to publish a French translation by his friend Jean Carayon, for which he made fifty colour engravings.

Though all the illustrations demonstrate De Becque’s mastery of powerful colour and composition, only a handful – just enough to make this a work of erotic art – depict the beautiful Sonnica and her friends. However, the artist did also produce several limited edition prints to accompany a few select copies of the work, which are reproduced here at the end of the sequence. They are some of his most sexually explicit work. Even during a siege time must be found for some good sex.

Sonnica la courtisane was produced in a limited numbered edition of 260 copies.