The Perplexing Enigma of Bernard Montorgueil
Anyone with an interest in femdom will no doubt have come across the erotic images of Bernard Montorgueil. Well I should say the ‘the works attributed to a Bernard Montorgueil’. This artist is a mysterious figure, his name is almost certainly a pseudonym. We know almost nothing about him or even when the art was produced. They have been dated as from the inter-war period the 1920s & ’30s, based on their style but it’s not definitive. And I say ‘his’ but ‘he’ could have been a ‘she’. It’s also not clear exactly how many images he produced, possibly 107, though there may be more. He was not just an artist but also an author, in the original manuscripts handwritten stories accompanied the illustrations. They were written in French leading to us to the presumption that he was French.
The illustrations are simple, somewhat crude pencil drawings of slender female and male figures engaged in extreme BDSM play. CP and sex acts, some brought to life with rather gaudy watercolours. They pretty much cover the gamut of female domination ‘activities’ with some homo-erotic/male bi dom and enforced feminisation thrown in. The backgrounds are usually domestic and rather refined, set in upper-class bourgeois drawing rooms (though there are dungeon scenes). The women are elegant and haughty while the men are younger and rather delicate.
His dominant women are not femme fatales but rather ‘the women next door’ dressed in tweed suits and evening dresses. The artist conveys a sense that the men are being forcibly enslaved by these women. They’re always inventive with wonderful small details and feature a mainstay of BDSM – elaborate torment contraptions and predicaments. They certainly challenge any notion that BDSM play and femdom is a relatively new phenomenon because it’s all here laid-out, from well over half a century ago!
In the 1950s Montorgueil’s illustrations and stories became very popular circulating clandestinely around underground networks. By the early 1970s his work was reprinted in limited editions by Editions Bel-Rose in the Netherlands and France and later Germany. Further reprints by various publishers followed, including ones produced for the UK. In some editions the illustrations are in black and white, whereas in others they are partially colourised with vivid colours. It is thought that they were colourised by a subsequent publisher probably in the ’70s in an attempt to modernise them and make them more saleable.
In 2014 four of Montorgueil’s actual manuscripts were sold at a Christie’s Auction for £30,000, very little is known about these first versions. However, from the auction listing we learn that some of the artworks did originally have colour on them as they are described as, “pencil drawings with touches of colour.” We also discover that some of the images were part of beautiful double page spreads accompanied by the text of the story. So the images we most commonly come across today on the web have been bastardised – chopped up and garishly coloured sadly diminishing their original artistry.
In the Christie’s catalogue, which we hope to be definitive and given they had access to the original manuscripts, Montorgueil name is spelt with a ‘gue’. In the ’70s limited and numbered Bel-Rose editions which purport to be signed by the artist, his name and signature are spelt ‘geu’. I guess nothing changes in the porn business you create it and everyone else ‘appropriates’ it 😒
A comparison of the original manuscript drawings with the ‘touches of colour’ from the Christie’s catalogue (left) with the gaudy colourised version most commonly seen today (right).
It’s difficult to imagine now with the access we have to sexual images but these artworks would have been the hard-core pornography of the time. And it’s impossible to know if they were produced as a commercial endeavour or were just one person’s private ‘wank bank’ sold on at a much later point.
I’d speculate that they were created by a man with a genuine interest in female domination, a sub with an active imagination. It doesn’t strike me as the work of a full-time artist but someone who used art to fulfil their sexual desires. If there’s no porn – you make your own, the art is his fantasy world. Someone who had another life by day and so needed to keep his identity as the artist secret.
Bernard Montorgueil should be recognised and celebrated as one of the foremost femdom authors and illustrators of the early twentieth century. Like most erotica from the past produced in secret, there’s much we will never know. While he probably didn’t appreciate how much pleasure his images and stories were about to give generation after generation of future pervs. 🙂 The real Montorgueil may be lost forever but at least the works remain as his legacy.
A selection of Bernard Montorgueil Illustrations
Bibliography – The Erotic Stories of Bernard Montorgueil
Une Brune piquante/ A Sexy Brunette
Une Après-midi de Barbara/ An Afternoon with Barbara
Les Quat’ jeudis/ Four Thursdays
Dans la Maison des Amazones/ In the House of Amazons
L’Accusation/ The Accusation
De la pénétration psychologique en matière d’éducation/ Psychological Penetration in Education
L’Invertie convertie/ Converted Invert (Invert was an old word for being for gay)
Update: I discovered, (on the blog of a collector of rare books parisolympiapress.com), that he had been attempting to find out why there were two spellings of Bernard Montorgueil name and had asked J. B. Rund for any helpful information. Rund was the publisher of 24 four volumes of Bizarre Comix (Belier Press 1975-86). Reprints of bondage cartoon serials from the 1950s originally sold mail order by Irving Klaw. Rund replied, stating he was the person who sold the original Bernard Montorgueil French manuscripts, which he found in Paris in 1969, to W. N. Schors, who, in turn, sold them to Editions Bel-Rose (Hans Langerveld) in Rotterdam. He also stated that all copies of the edition were signed by W. N. Schors using a pseudonym that he invented and that he believed the works were not produced until the 1950s or ’60s. (I’d suspected that they were possibly from a slightly later date.) His response, however, still doesn’t answer the most pertinent question – who or where did he get them from in Paris in the ’60s? He states that Schors invented the name Bernard Montorgueil but we know from the Christie’s auction that there were initialled by the author. Though it might mean he created the names using the initials. If anyone has any more information, do get in touch.