For a city with as open an attitude to sex as Amsterdam has, you won’t be surprised to find an entire museum dedicated to the subject. The Sexmuseum, also called Venustempel (or the Temple of Venus), sits boldly on the main strip from Centraal Station to the Palace on Dam Square. Starting as a small museum in 1985, the collection of amorous objects and artwork expanded as public interest grew. Now, the Sexmuseum holds the world’s foremost collection of erotic pictures, paintings, sculptures, recordings, photographs and antiques.

History at the Sexmuseum

One of the most fascinating elements of the Sexmuseum is your opportunity to travel through the ages via their erotic art and peek into the wild excesses of past civilisations. Taking you through the sensual desires of different eras and cultures, you will have the opportunity to view ornate pieces from Greek, Roman, Asian, and Islamic cultures, gaining insight into their changing and varied attitudes towards sexuality.

Sexmuseum exhibits

The museum is made up of a labyrinth of corridors and rooms, which, as you venture through, will delight at almost every turn. Each small gallery is named after well-known hedonistic figures in history, like Casanova, Marquis de Sade, Catherine the Great, Oscar Wilde and Madame de Pompadour. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all comes from how informative and interesting the exhibits in the Sexmuseum are. There are some extremely rare pieces on display you won’t want to miss, such as a large carved-stone phallus from Roman times, or an original sixteenth-century iron chastity belt.

The Venus Gallery

In keeping with the theme, you will find the large Venus Gallery on the first and second floor, named after the Roman goddess of love. According to the Sexmuseum, Venus features in 50 percent of all erotic pictures and paintings. Here you will discover an incredible collection of sensual artwork, sculptures, coins and curios from Greek and Roman times, combined with more modern displays including one dedicated to iconic sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.

The Devil’s work

You may notice that the Sexmuseum’s objets d’art from the Middle Ages often feature representations of the Devil and other demonic imagery. During this time, man’s lusty freedoms gave way to hidden desires as sex became associated with the work of the Devil. You can see this interesting progression through the various forms of erotic art on display from that era.

Hidden treasures

When the Sexmuseum was expanding to house an ever-growing collection, the hand of fate stepped in and two pieces of erotic art were discovered during the excavations. A fragment of an antique Delft Blue tile – showing a man in a, ahem, suggestive pose – and an antique Hermes figurine, with a similar erotic theme, were discovered. You can see both of these fascinating items on show in the Sexmuseum today.

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