For as long as I’ve been seeing dirty pictures online, I’ve stumbled over small galleries and individual examples of vintage female-dominant raunchily-explicit BDSM artworks attributed to Bernard Montorgueil. The detail above (don’t forget to click for a larger version, above and throughout this post) is pretty typical. The style is European from before the second world war, but never have I seen a detailed artist profile or a really good gallery that seems completist and authoritative. So, for the last couple of days, I’ve been doing deep-dive web research to see what it would take to create one.
What do we know about Montorgueil and his art? Damned little, it turns out. This entry at the Spanking Art wiki is better than most web sources, and the info density is fairly sparse:
Bernard Montorgueil was the pseudonym of a French BDSM and spanking artist and author of short stories whose works were originally written and published in the 1920s and 1930s (though not much is known about these original versions). Most of his work has femdom-malesub themes.
His work was reprinted in limited editions in the early 1970s by Editions Bel-Rose in the Netherlands and in France (Edition Belrose). These reprints were in the original French language and translated into German. In the German versions, his name was (mis)spelled Bernard Montorgeuil.
In some editions, the illustrations are in black and white, whereas in other editions they are colorized (in watercolors). The black-and-white artwork is original, but the colorization was probably done in the 1970s by an artist employed by one of the republishers.
We are lucky to find the the catalog description from a 2014 Christies auction where four perhaps-unique Montorgueil manuscripts sold for £30,000:
[MONTORGUEIL, BERNARD (DATES UNKNOWN), PSEUDONYM.] FOUR MANUSCRIPT BOOKS WITH ORIGINAL DRAWINGS: DRESSAGE, UNE BRUNE PIQUANTE, UNE APRÈS-MIDI DE BARBARA, AND LES QUAT’ JEUDIS. FRANCE, 1920S-1930S.
[MONTORGUEIL, Bernard (dates unknown), pseudonym.] Four manuscript books with original drawings: Dressage, Une Brune piquante, Une Après-midi de Barbara, and Les Quat’ jeudis. France, 1920s-1930s.
Four works in four volumes, quarto (278 x 244 mm), comprising a total of 115 pages of manuscript text in black ink with initials and titles in red, and 59 full-page pencil drawings with touches of colour; or, vol. 1: 41pp of text and 29pp of drawings; vol. 2: 8pp text and 7pp of drawings; vol. 3: 27pp text and 12pp of drawings; vol. 4: 39pp of text and 11pp of drawings. (Occasional light soiling.) 20th-century cloth, respectively blue, green, maroon, and white, the spines titled in gilt (corners rubbed, light soiling).
ORIGINAL ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS OF HIS MOST IMPORTANT WORKS BY ONE OF THE MASTERS OF SM EROTICA. Montorgueil’s work celebrates the dominant woman, his drawings showing tender young men as willing playthings in a dizzying variety of scenarios. The present manuscripts are the source for the Belrose edition of 1970, and the many subsequent reprints by Leroy which introduced Montorgueil to a much wider audience. Little is known of the author, whose work was produced between the wars, but began to circulate clandestinely in the 1950s. The Nordmann collection held a smaller group by this leading 20th century erotic illustrator (sold, Christie’s Paris, 14-15 December 2006, lot 382).
We learn from this auction description that the Montorgueil manuscript drawings are not in fact “black-and-white” as suggested by the Spanking Art wiki article: they are “pencil drawings with touches of color.” But the wiki article is correct that many of them were colorized by a subsequent publisher. Compare one of the “touches of color” manuscript drawings shared in the Christies catalog (left) with the garishly-colorized version most commonly seen today (right):
The colorized version can be traced to one of the “Leroy” reprints referenced in the Christies catalog; namely to Les quatre jeudis suivi de Barbara, (Éditions Dominique Leroy 1979, ISBN 2-8770-3016-4). (Bibliographic information found here; sample image is found in this image set).
Another thing we learn from the Christies auction description is that at least some of the Montorgueil artwork we’re familiar with from the modern reprints is quite significantly incomplete. Christies offered this sample page from the sale manuscripts:
As you can see, the original artwork was a two-page spread, excepting perhaps a 1/3-page box for prose. Subsequent versions on the art reproduce the left page portion only:
This sort of discovery challenges my completist tendencies. What would it take to bring these artworks to the modern web, complete and un-cropped? Physical access to the manuscripts that sold at Christies last year seems the only sure way, and sadly there seems to be no public record of who bought them. Nor does it seem very likely that a collector who shelled out thirty thousand pounds would make his precious manuscripts available to some grubby sex blogger with his grubby scanner.
Barring that, is there any evidence of full-facimile editions existing anywhere? The cropped example above is from our 1979 Leroy edition, one of the “many subsequent reprints by Leroy” cited by Christies. So we know the Leroy editions don’t have the handwritten text or the extended artwork that surrounded it. But might there exist some other more faithful edition?
The earliest editions we know about are cited by the Spanking Art Wiki as follows:
Les Quatre Jeudis, suivi de “Barbara” (1936, 23 images. Reprinted in 1979 by Editions Dominique Leroy.)
Dressage, suivi de “Une brune piquante” (193x, 35 images. Reprinted in 1979 by Editions Dominique Leroy.)
Counting images, those two volumes together include 58 images; a near-match to the 59 images in Christie’s four manuscripts. But we’ve already seen the scans of the 1979 Leroy edition, and the images shown are the partial colorized ones. If it’s a faithful reprint of the 1936 edition (plus or minus some colorizing) the 1930s editions won’t do us any more good.
But what about that intermediate “Belrose edition of 1970” Christies mentions? If the Spanking Art Wiki is right about the source of the Leroy editions in two 1930s volumes, then perhaps the “Belrose” edition Christies mentions is more faithful to the manuscripts? The Spanking Art Wiki lists four 1970 “Bel-Rose” German volumes, corresponding rather tightly to the four manuscripts described in the Christies auction:
1. Vier Donnerstage (Editions Bel-Rose, c. 1970, 11 uncolored lithographies)
2. Ein Nachmittag bei Barbara (Editions Bel-Rose, c. 1970, 12 uncolored lithographies)
3. Die Nadelliebhaberin (Editions Bel-Rose, c. 1970, 7 uncolored lithographies)
4. Dressur (Editions Bel-Rose, c. 1970, 29 uncolored lithographies)
Note that the image count listed for each of these four volumes hews tightly to the number of images listed for the corresponding Christies manuscripts. These might be more faithful facsimiles than the pair of 1930s portmanteau volumes reprinted by Leroy!
There are hints out there that the Bel-Rose editions are indeed facsimile editions. For instance, take this mention:
Les Jardins des délices des supplices. [I, Les Quat’Jeudis.- II, Barbara.- III, Dressage.- IV, Une brune piquante]. Rotterdam, Editions Bel-Rose, 1970. 4 volumes in-4, toile de l’éditeur. Rare collection complète, en édition originale, des quatre volumes des Jardins des délices des supplices, un des ouvrages culte du sado-masochisme. Publié en facsimilé du manuscrit autographe, l’ouvrage a été tiré à 500 exemplaires sur vélin spécial de Hollande, signés à la main par l’auteur. L’illustration se compose, en tout, de 58 compositions érotiques à pleine page reproduites, selon la justification, en lithographie. Bernard Montorgeuil est un pseudonyme dont personne, jusqu’à aujourd’hui, n’a percé le secret. Il est souvent orthographié Montorgueil.
This appears to be an auction listing for all four 1970 Bel-Rose volumes. “Publié en facsimilé du manuscrit autographe” translates to something like “published in facsimile of the autograph manuscript”, which seems hopeful. Other auction listings have the same wording.
And that’s as far as we get on this bumpy road that is the internet. Would I like to get my hands on my own copy, with an eye to making high-quality scans? Yes indeed I would. But for that, I would need a substantial budget.
Other rabbit holes we might go down: just how much Montorgueil artwork is out there? Our 59 images from the Christies manuscripts seem not to be the totality. Quoting from the Christies description:
The Nordmann collection held a smaller group by this leading 20th century erotic illustrator (sold, Christie’s Paris, 14-15 December 2006, lot 382).
Google turns up that auction listing as well:
[MONTORGUEIL, Bernard (nom réel et dates inconnus)]. Manuscrits et dessins libres originaux de 5 récits. [Vers 1930]
In-4 (266 x 212 mm). 60 pages de texte calligraphié à l’encre noire avec initiales en rouge, 48 dessins dont 2 à double page et 46 à pleine page, à la mine de plomb, certains avec rehauts aux crayons de couleurs, sur vélin d’Arches cartonné. Détail des 5 récits: 1) Dans la Maison des Amazones, Seize images d’étranges plaisirs: titre calligraphié à l’encre rouge et noire, 16pp. de texte avec initiale rouge et 16 dessins ; 2) L’Accusation: titre au crayon rehaussé de couleur, 13pp. de texte et 5 dessins ; 3) Équivalences: titre à la mine de plomb, 7 dessins dont un à double page ; 4) De la pénétration psychologique en matière d’éducation: titre au crayon rehaussé de couleur, 16pp. de texte et 9 dessins ; 5) L’Invertie convertie: titre au crayon rehaussé de couleur, 15pp. de texte et 11 dessins dont un à double page.
Reliure signée Honegger en maroquin mauve, premier plat et dos ornés de mosaïques géométriques de maroquin rouge, noir, brun et bleu marine ainsi que de trois disques de box chair ; dos lisse, titre à la chinoise, décor à l’identique, doublures et gardes de crêpe noir à résille, tête dorée, non rogné (dos un peu passé).
EXCEPTIONNEL ENSEMBLE MANUSCRIT avec 48 superbes dessins érotiques au fini parfait de ce maître de l’illustration sado-masochiste, Bernard Montorgueil, dont toute l’oeuvre célèbre la femme dominatrice dressant les hommes. Dans les présents dessins, l’auteur de Dressage et d’Une Brune piquante, transforme de jeunes hommes tendres et graciles en objets de luxure pour des femmes vêtues d’ahurissantes combinaisons fétichistes.
La plus grande discrétion entoure Bernard Montorgueil. Son oeuvre commença à circuler sous le manteau dans les années cinquante, mais elle semble plutôt dater de l’entre deux guerres. On connaît au moins quatre séries de dessins accompagnés de textes calligraphiés. Bernard Montorgueil se situe au tout premier rang des illustrateurs érotiques du XXe siècle.
A partial and mechanical translation suggests to us five more Montorgueil stories in the form of manuscripts with original drawings:
1) In the House of the Amazons, Sixteen pictures of strange pleasures : handwritten title in red and black ink, 16pp. red text with original drawings and 16;
2) The Prosecution : title in pencil enhanced with color, 13pp. 5 text and drawings;
3) Equivalent : title at the lead, seven drawings including a double page;
4) From the psychological penetration in education : title in pencil enhanced with color, 16pp. 9 text and drawings;
5) The inverted converted : title in pencil enhanced with color, 15pp. text and 11 drawings including one in double page.
That would explain why, for instance, this now-defunct web gallery can have 84 images attributed to Montorgueil.
I wonder, too, about this gallery. It contains 48 sketches that correspond to familiar Montorgueil images. Are they modern studies? Or Montorgueil’s own sketchbooks? As always when one dives deep into the history of erotic art using imperfect sources, we generate more questions than answers.
I have used the “Montorgueil” spelling of this artist’s name throughout, in reliance on the Christie’s auction catalog, which I thought to be trustworthy in such matters. However, Steve M. points out that the 1970 Bel-Rose editions (which purport to be signed by the artist) use the spelling “Montorgeuil” throughout:
I have checked all of my Editions Bel-Rose, titles in both the French and German editions, and they all use the spelling above, and although the legibility of the signature differs they are generally clear enough to confirm that the e precedes the u in the spelling of the name and confirms the printed version as correct.