In 1870, the publication of Léopold Sacher-Masoch’s semi-autobiographical erotic novella, Venus with Furs, caused a sensation. The story chronicles a master/slave relationship, with the woman as master. It is considered the first work of fiction based on sadomasochism. The author’s name – to his displeasure – was actually borrowed by the new science of psychology to coin the term “masochist.”
Many passages were, in themselves, shocking for the time:
“…she wraps her sublime body in great heavy furs and warms her feet on the prostrate body of her lover.”
“Be then my slave, and know what it means to be delivered into the hands of a woman.”
In 1968, it was a natural choice for a new Dali/Argillet collaboration. Dali had used the theme of sadomasochism in his work; was fascinated with societal extremes; and had a purposely extreme public personality.
The artist and the publisher decided that Dali would create a portfolio of 20 etchings to be paired with Sacher-Masoch’s words.
Dali’s drawing style in this suite is particularly fluid. Lines are less frequent, but often sinuous; widening and then narrowing to threads, depending on what he is wrapping them around. Each image works individually; but many combine quite naturally into pairs or trios; based on theme or imagery.
The images are drawn both from specific episodes in the book, and from its themes and mood.
STORY: The narrator dreams that he has been dominated by Venus, Goddess of Love, who is wrapped in furs. Disturbed, he seeks advice from a friend. The friend gives him a book; the memoir of Severin, a man who convinces his lover, Wanda, to enslave him sexually and emotionally. The relationship – at first tentative – becomes more and more extreme. Wanda comes to enjoy it; feeling a sort of freedom from life in a male-dominated society. She treats Severin as her servant in public; and even recruits a trio of black women to flog him.
Ultimately, her desires shift. She wants to be dominated herself, and takes a new lover, leaving Severin humiliated. At the story’s end, Sacher-Masoch has his protagonist declare that a woman can only be a man’s master or slave; not his companion. This due to society’s inequality towards women.
The author intended the story to be a strong argument for equal rights for women, and was frustrated that this was eclipsed by the book’s sensational aspects.
Venus in Furs has been used in countless ways, in every branch of the arts, including several film adaptations; the inclusion of a song of that name on the Velvet Underground’s debut album; and – at this writing – playwright David Ives’ new stage-version is playing in Chicago, after several years in New York City.
Documentation & Edition Details
Venus in Furs/Venus aux Fourrures
Publisher: Argillet, Paris. 1968-1969
Suite of drypoint etchings with roulette.
Image size: 16 are 31 by 23.5 cm; 12.2 by 9.25 in, and 4 are vignettes.
Reference: Michler/Lopsinger 357-376
Each etching is signed by Dali in the same area as the artist’s blindstamp.
Each is numbered at lower left.
Edition of 294: 265 on Arches paper; 29 on Japanese.
A separate edition of 145, hand-colored, some with gilding, on Japanese paper.
Graphik Europa Anstalt
Provenance of examples purchased:
Dali/Argillet to the Argillet family to SHFA to you.
The work you receive has been archivally stored,
in Paris, for 45 years, and is in untouched condition.
All images and text shown on this site are copyright © Sam Heller Fine Art. Ltd., and may not be reproduced or distributed for any commercial purpose without express written permission under penalty of law. All rights reserved. Images displayed on this site of etchings by Salvador Dali are copyright Argillet/GSDF for imagery; and Sam Heller Fine Art, Ltd. for the actual digitally-framed, accuracy-adjusted, sample photographs displayed.