No complete set survives of I Modi, the famous engravings showing positions for copulation, made by Marcantonio from drawings by Giulio Romano: it is said that both copper plates and prints were destroyed by the order of Pope Clement VII. The engraver was imprisoned, and the second edition, which included 16 sonnets written by Pietro Aretino to accompany the pictures, was also supressed. However, there's a sheet of fragments (with the provocative bits excised) in the British Museum, and drawings made in the mid-19th century by Count Frédéric-Maximilien de Waldeck, based on a set of the engravings found, he said, in a Mexican convent, seem likely to be genuine reconstructions. They conform both with the British Museum fragments and with an edition in which the original engravings have been copied as woodcuts - the illustration here is taken from it - which Lynne Lawner supposes to have been produced in Venice around 1527. The unique surviving copy of this edition was found in 1928 by Walter Toscanini, son of the conductor. The pages of this book, the de Waldeck drawings, the British Museum fragments, and translations of the sonnets, are all included in Lawner's book. A foreword by George Szabo relates the images of I Modi to the history of erotic art, and traces their use as sources by, for example, majolica-makers.
LRB 27 July 1989 | PDF Download