(From the pages of Erotic Art History:)
Today’s piece of historic erotic art comes to us from Qing dynasty China. (1) In this scene, two men have formal, ridged, and very uncomfortable-looking sex. The only information available on this image is the brief caption from Gilles Néret‘s book “Homo Art” that says, “Two cross-dressing actors. Qing dynasty, China”, which I can add onto that the Qing dynasty ran from 1644-1912. (2)
That said, while Gilles Néret does an admirable job of compiling high numbers of erotic images in his books, I have caught a number of factual errors in his brief notations on them, and I am left to wonder if this is another case of that or if there is something less obvious going on regarding the “cross dressing” assertion of the caption. Both people in this scene appear to be male presenting with both facial hair and penises. I am not familiar enough with Chinese culture to know if the person on the right is wearing a female headdress, as men often played female parts on the stage, but that said, they general did not do so with facial hair and this character has a mustache.
The main issue might be with the person on the left who has pulled their shirt down to cover their penis as their as being penetrated anally, possibly for purposes of gender perception, or possibly for warmth, or maybe even just by chance. I think that it is also possible that the author may have mistaken the character’s scrotum for actual labia, at a glance, and potentially thought that this was a female bodied person who was presenting as male when combined with their mustache, neck beard, and facial features. Given that I cannot find this image anywhere on the internet or in any other book and the author is dead, the caption will remain a mystery for the time being.
In this scene, a man lies on his back on what appears to be a low to the ground bed frame with no mattress or padding, propped up (probably very uncomfortably) against some books wearing only socks and a shirt that covers their cock, but not their balls as they lay with their ass at the edge of the bed and their arms rigidly by their side. Another man, fully nude, stands on his knees at the end of the bed lifts his paying partner’s legs to facilitate access as he either anally penetrates him or engages in outercourse with his partner’s crack (it technically appears to be more the latter, but seems like it was probably intended to communicate the former).
The man on his knees uses a rug for padding in this simply decorated bedroom while his laying partner inspects his sexual efforts with what appears to be a harshly scrutinizing gaze. Though with the information I have, it’s not possible to know what was intended, but it appears that this may have been a humerously intended scene with the man on the left being given a test on his topping skills and with the person on the right grading him critically.
REFERENCE / FURTHER READING
(1) IMAGE SOURCE: “Homo Art” book
Néret, Gilles. Homo Art. Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 2004. (p.186.)
(2) WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE: “Qing Dynasty” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qing_dynasty