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This is a #tour about feisty women who broke the rules. Flaunting convention, they reached for power and influence, and shaped the culture and politics of their day. People call them “nasty women,” but they still admire them. And along the way they became the subjects of great works of art—many of them on display at the Met. #sexyarttours #guidedtours #nastywomen #womenshistory For more info and to book:

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Courtesans, royal mistresses, scandalous women of every sort—the walls of the Metropolitan Museum are lined with them, from ancient Greek hetaerae to Sargent’s Madame X. These women, famous not only for sex-appeal but also for their talents—and for a spirit which today we would call 'entrepreneurial'— fascinated both their wealthy patrons and the artists who created the world's great masterpieces. But who were they? How did they rise to their positions? And how did they maintain their prominence despite their scandalous reputations?
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*Ticket price includes museum admission. Advanced purchase necessary. Discounts available for seniors, students, and Met members.*

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As Professor Lear prepares out new tour, Scandalous Seductions at the Metropolitan (about the intersection of sex and scandal and art), we're reviewing a lot of great pieces in the museum. Take this portrait by François Gérard of Princess Catherine de Talleyrand. Is there a hint of raciness about the painting? Perhaps. There is a long tradition of women reading and writing letters in painting, but it is generally only love letters that they read and write. Her wistful expression could reflect this, and the symbolism of her surroundings could be even more clearly suggestive, in particular the single, distinctly phallic andiron sticking up from the flames behind her. Could this be a reference to the flames of passion? This might all seem far-fetched, but the princess was in fact a scandalous person. She had been a courtesan before her acquaintance with Talleyrand, and his mistress for several years before Napoleon forced them to get married. And her general reputation (quite possibly unfair) was for being sexy and stupid. So it's not impossible that the painter wanted to portray her as sexy. In fact, the only question is: wouldn't Talleyrand (who presumably paid for the painting) and the princess have noticed, and if so, would they have been pleased with that?

To find out more about this and other pieces like it, come on the Shady Ladies tours! For tickets and info, see:

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One of the things that always surprises us is that people don't think Dutch painting of the Golden Age is about sex. Really? I guess that's because Dutch artists didn't paint a lot of nudes. Or maybe it is because Rembrandt, with his psychologically complex portraits, dominates our view of Dutch painting. But if you look at the Dutch galleries of the Met, you'll find that courtship, love letters, and wild parties are among the biggest themes. They didn't have courtesans, so the Shady Ladies tour doesn't go there—but that's not because they didn't have prostitution!—just because the kind of aristocratic devil-may-care spending that maintained the courtesans of Venice, Paris, or London was not typical of the relatively egalitarian Netherlands. But the Scandalous Seductions tour will go to those galleries, we promise, to see paintings like this Frans Hals (1616-1617) painting of "Shrovetide Revelers." Would it help if we changed the name from to something more modern, like "The Mardi Gras Party?" Surely, there's nothing sexless about Hals' scene!
The two men leaning on the "maiden" in the middle are pretty suggestive: the one on the left in particular is making an obscene gesture, which we won't bother to explain. And the bowl of distinctly phallic sausages (which are also hanging in a string over the other man's shoulder) underline its meaning, as does the bagpipe on the table. But let's look at the "maiden" whom they are propositioning, with her elaborate dress. Look at "her" stubby hands and thick neck. Is that a girl, or is it just a thick-set Dutch boy, rouged and dressed up for Mardi Gras? We leave you to decide, but in any case there's nothing sexless about this painting!

To learn more, come on the Shady Ladies tours! For more info and tickets, see:

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If your in the New York City area Join Us On Our Women's Art History Tour of the Metropolitan Museum On January 29th. We have several tours weekly.

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Read more about the scandalous life of shady lady Alice Ozy in the description! Please comment, like, & share!

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Dr. Ruth and Professor Andrew Lear tour the Metropolitan Museum

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Sex therapist, media personality, and author, Dr. Ruth took our tour eariler this year and gives her perspective to Professor Lear. Get 10% off all January tours. Use the code ' Happy New Year ' at checkout.

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We've been posting a lot of things on Facebook from the neighborhood around the Place Pigalle in Paris lately. Here is another one—a really special one—one of the most charming small museums in Paris, with a lovely courtyard garden and a café that is a perfect place to hang out over tea and patisserie. And the museum has some very racy associations that you might not at first notice. I am talking about the Musée de la via romantique, on the rue Chaptal.

You have to go down a little alley off the street to get to it, and when you get there, you find yourself in a quaintly almost rural 19th century Paris setting. The house was the studio of a Romantic painter named Ary Scheffer. We are not fans, but Scheffer was close friends with everyone in Romantic Paris, and his house was a gathering place for people like Balzac, Delacroix, Chopin, George Sand, famous sopranos Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot—as well as the king, Louis Phillipe, who was a distant cousin of George Sand's. We easily forget, I think, how racy these people were—how full of sex and violence Delacroix's paintings were, how Balzac wrote novels about courtesans, love affairs—even male homosexuals, the ultimate taboo at the time. And they had all kinds of love affairs. We have already done blog posts about both George Sand ( and Maria Malibran ( Both separated from their husbands: Malibran had her first marriage annulled, and Sand got divorced—a very rare proceeding in this time. And Sand had a long series of lovers, including a number of famous men, Chopin of course, but also Prosper Mérimée (the author of Carmen), and the Romantic poet par excellence Alfred de Musset. She also smoked and dressed in men's clothes: in short, she did everything she could to scandalize society.

These women represent a new category of women in their time. They were not aristocratic libertines (though Sand was descended, via illegitimate births, from a very prominent one), nor were they talented courtesans supported by patrons: these had both existed in the 18th century. Instead, they were talented and successful women who demanded the freedom to live, artistically and sexually, according to their own interests and desires. So if you're in Paris, come take a look at the Musée de la vie romantique. And don't be fooled by its quiet, old-fashioned feel. It commemorates a very racy set of people.

I will post a picture of the museum, casts of George Sand's famously beautiful right arm and Chopin's hand, and painting by Scheffer of Maria Malibran in the role of Desdemona in Rossini's Otello (Rossini was also a friend).
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