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Vice Squad Screens Britain's 1st Auction of Erotic Art Works

November 08, 1986|From Reuters

LONDON — Fearful that pictures of couples in athletic love poses might offend squeamish bidders, a firm of London auctioneers has called in Scotland Yard's vice squad to screen the items in Britain's first public sale of erotic art.

The Bonhams auction house is worried that the works being auctioned Nov. 20 might fall afoul of the law.

About 170 antique "curiosities" from China, Japan, India, France and Victorian England are expected to bring prices ranging from $40 to $4,000.

"It is a sensitive subject, and the line between pornography and art is a tenuous one," said Bonhams' spokeswoman Isobel Glenny. "Scotland Yard has guided us and an Inspector White from the vice squad came along to see what we are offering."

Although erotica is a popular feature for many London art galleries, art experts say this is the first time an auction house has tackled the theme.

Dozens of items considered degrading to women, or obscene, have already been rejected from the sale.

"We apologize for any offense that might be given," said a notice on the sale. "We have taken great pains to ensure that all items in the sale are genuinely 'works of art' and we have imposed a heavy degree of censorship regarding subject matter."

Perhaps the most intriguing lot on sale is a "Bourdalou," a glass receptacle resembling a gravy boat that was carried in a lady's muff and used as a portable chamber pot.

Bonhams explains that the Bourdalou was supposedly invented for the ladies of the court of Louis XIV who found such an item invaluable when they were detained by the long discourses of the Jesuit priest Pere Louis Bourdalou.

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