Erotic Art and a 200-Year-Old Condom Turn on Paris Buyers at a Titillating $850,000 Auction

Erotic Art and a 200-Year-Old Condom Turn on Paris Buyers at a Titillating $850,000 Auction
Daguerreotype by Jules Dubosq, photographed in 1850-51
(Courtesy EVE)

Last Sunday and Monday, the EVE auction house offered 915 lots of erotica from an anonymous collector with a penchant for porn. The collection, acquired over a 35-year period, included objects with provenances ranging from ancient Egypt to modern-day France. The auction had a sell-through rate of 80 percent and netted a final total of €650,000 ($850,000) from buyers all riled up by the goods on display. 

A graphite drawing by Hans Bellmer was the top lot, fetching €27,262 ($35,500) after a mere €3-4,000 ($3,900-5,200) estimate. Two daguerreotypes from 1850-51 by Jules Duboscq also inspired heated competition. The first, a black-and-white depiction of a naked woman gazing into a mirror, reached €24,164 ($31,500), while the second, a color scene of a young man displaying his erect member to a courtesan, was sold for €13,631 ($17,775). A nineteenth-century lacquer box with an image of an orgy accompanied by a concert of wind instruments soared past its €2-3,000 ($2,600-3,900) estimate, finally going for €8,427 ($11,000).

Other delicately-wrought nineteenth-century erotic objects charmed the auction room, which was packed with a diverse mix of collectors and dealers male and female, French and foreign — Asian buyers in particular made an appearance. A gold compact with a false bottom decorated with two erotic miniatures sold for €5,700 ($7,425), while a music box featuring an automaton seducing a young woman fetched €4,957 ($6,460).

Buyers eagerly anticipated a 15-inch silver dildo, which achieved a price of €4,709 ($6,140), and a nineteenth-century condom made of animal intestine became the object of a seven-way bidding war, finally going for €4,337 ($5,650). The painted bronze statue of an excited red devil that graced the cover of the catalogue, created in Vienna in the early 20th century, fetched the same amount. The sale ended with an album of erotic photographs that, though estimated at only €400-600 ($520-780), reached €5,948 ($7,750).

The catalogue, printed in a run of 4,500, is sold out. Clearly, the market for erotic art is only beginning to show its full potential.