Sonetti lussuriosi (Lustful Sonnets)

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Date: 1527 1558

Region: Europe

Subject: Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Literature


Artist: Pietro Aretino (1492 - 1556)

Confronting Bodies: Roman Catholic Church authorities

Date of Action: 1527, 1558

Location: Rome, Italy

Description of Artwork: Aretino is known for his lewdness and satire. The Sonetti lussuriosi (Lustful Sonnets) (1524) was written to accompany pornographic engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi, called "posizioni", or positions of sexual intercourse.


The Incident: Pope Clement VII banned the Sonetti in 1527. Aretino's succeeding pornographic works were also forbidden by the church. His writing was considered dangerous because of its unashamed celebration of sexuality in its many forms and Aretino's "refusal to restrict his audience to men of virtue." In 1558, Sonetti lussuriosi went on the Vatican's first index of forbidden books.

Results of Incident: In Venice, book printers were allowed to print 50 copies of Aretino's works each year, despite the ban. Translations circulated in Dutch, English, French, Spanish and Latin. European writers referenced his work throughout the century.

Source: Censorship, A World Encyclopedia, ed. D. Jones