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1930’s French BDSM By Carlo - An Anonymous Erotic Mystery (With Plenty of Spanking)


Illustration By Carlo (1932). (Scans via Honesterotica and Steve Mullins of Olympia Press)

Carlo needs no special introduction. His original artwork is amongst the most collected in the genre. His fantastic, yet outrageous artwork, has been collected ever since it was initially printed. Both book collectors and art collectors have competed to get their hands on the original illustrations, often denuding the books of their accompanying images. So, what was all of the hype about?


During the 1920s and 1930s, erotic books in France had plenty of spanking in them. These books were sought after and possessing them used to be a big deal. One of the leading contributors to the rise of France’s spankophiles was the mysterious character named ‘Carlo’.

Dolorès Amazone (1934)

Le château des cuisants souvenirs (1934)

Van Rod, The Dominator or The School of Virgins (1933)

Carlo was a French fetish artist whose artwork could be found in numerous French BDSM publications in the early 1900s. Even though his artwork was popular, not much is actually known about the person who created it.


This should come as no surprise, considering how accepting society was of hardcore BDSM in the 1920s. Carlo remains a mystery to this day. However, regardless of his pseudonymity, he serves as one of the most prominent fetish performers to ever live.


Les tyrans passionnels(Passionate Tyrants) is the title that is often referenced as an example of Carlo’s transformation into “Charleno”, an apparent alternative identity. This seems to be the point at which his artwork became the main product, and the book became the vehicle that was used to promote it.


‘Les tyrans passionnels’ (Passionate Tyrants)

Carlo’s artwork was way more than just spanking. He also illustrated bondage, branding, flogging, suspension, pony play, and much more. His unique artwork had a strong impact on BDSM fetish photographer and rockstar John Willie, who would later influence a whole generation of performers.


Interestingly enough, just like the narratives presented in the titles, Carlo’s illustrations never really depicted intimate sexual acts, not even genitals. The illustrations would emphasize bare bottoms, exposed breasts, and as much torture and humiliation as one can imagine.


Le cuir triomphant (1934)

L’inquisiteur moderne (1933)

La reine cravache (1932)

Le cuir triomphant (1934)

Le château des cuisants souvenirs (1934)

Fascinating is the idea that while the illustrations’ aesthetics have evolved throughout the past 100 years, the aesthetics of BDSM have pretty much remained the same. Carlo’s work shows us that people enjoyed horseplay 100 years ago just as much as they do in 2024.


Every single image of Carlo’s trademark artwork is signed ‘Carlo’ or just ‘C’, and by the end of 1937, he had illustrated approximately three hundred drawings for thirty different titles.

You can check out some of these titles here: Van Rowel, Désiré, L’Internat des Châtiments, Artistic Library and Parisian Edition United (1933):




Van Rod, The Dominator or The School of Virgins (1933):




Edith Kindler, Slavery or The Agony under the Whip (Paris 1932):





Le cuir triomphant (1934):




Le château des cuisants souvenirs (1934):




La reine cravache (1932):




L’inquisiteur moderne (1933):




Dolorès Amazone (1934):