Boucher’s Erotic Workshop

In the first pages of Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift tells us about his protagonist’s years of apprenticeship with a certain Master Bates. The joke is an old one. Why in the XVIII century Jonathan Swift decided to recycle medieval humor becomes clear from the following. Johann Christian von Mannlich tells us in his Memoirs of how François Boucher mass-produced his erotic art. In the morning his apprentices copied the best of their teacher’s drawings, keeping them unfinished, so that at lunch time the master could add a few touches to their work to sell it later for two louis a piece to all sorts of collectors and art dealers; those were always ready to buy, so high was demand. This workshop system was so productive that often Boucher simply gave the drawings away.

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