The Marqius de Sade

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Date: 1500 - 1799 1800 - 1850 1951 - 1975

Region: Europe

Subject: Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Literature


Artist: Marquis de Sade (Donatien Alphonse-François de Sade)

Confronting Bodies: Corps de censeurs royaux and Napoleon Bonapart

Dates of Action: 1793 and 1801

Location: France

Description of Artwork: Sade's novels are known for their violent sexual content. The book he got into trouble for is "Justine" which is a long series of sexual misadventures of a young woman.

The Incident: Sade had been arrested several times before getting into trouble over his writing. These incidents were often sexual themselves and this history, along with the emergence of "Justine" led authorities to crack down on him. In 1973 he was arrested and his publisher was executed.

Sade's writing had disappeared to the underground, but when Napoleon reached power in 1801, they were repressed further and Sade was imprisoned again without a trial.

Results of Incident: His works remained under the radar until 1909, when his work came back into publishing. Even in modern times it continued to be censored. In 1956, a French publisher was put on trial on the grounds that "Juliette" was an "affront to public decency." In 1965, the book was rejected for publishing in Britain due to it being read by the culprit in a case of murders of children.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.