Skip to main content

Distributed for Seagull Books

The Sexual Night

In The Sexual Night, renowned French writer and critic Pascal Quignard meditates on a remarkable collection of illustrations of sexual imagery. He moves from the annals of global art to ancient and modern, from Bosch and Dürer to Rembrandt and Tintoretto, from Caspar David Friedrich and Caravaggio to Bacon and Jean Rustin. The meditations are wonderfully woven together, presenting a reflection on the sexual image that psychoanalysis calls “the primal scene”—a concept introduced by Freud as the first sexual scene witnessed by a child; a scene that is unexplained, unforgettable, and ultimately haunting.

Throughout the course of twenty-seven chapters that draw on the mythological and artistic resources of Western and Far Eastern culture—including the tragic love of Dido and Aeneas; the scandalous figure of Mary Magdalene; Lascaux and Golgotha; voyeurism and melancholy; Saint Augustine and Freud—the book is a disquisition on vision, temporality, generation, and creation in all its forms. Forty-eight brilliant and sensual color images accompany the text, as Quignard questions the origin of our being and explains the unexplainable, while noted translator Chris Turner lends a crisp voice to the entire collection. 

124 pages | 48 color plates | 6 x 7 1/2 | © 2014

The French List

Art: Art--General Studies

Seagull Books image

View all books from Seagull Books


“Intelligible, mournful, and profound.”

New York Times

The Sexual Night explores much more thoroughly and universally than ever before this ‘invisible’ sexual scene that founds and forever affects us. . . . A thoroughly stimulating book.”

Arts Fuse

Table of Contents


Dido and Aeneas

The Invisible Scene

Lot and His Daughters

Noah and His Sons

Noli Me Tangere

Mary Magdalene

Nyx and Nox

Sleep and Dreams



Saint Augustine and Desiderio

The Nether World

The Wild Beasts



Actaeon and Diana

Mars and Venus

Baubo and Demeter

A French Scene

A Chinese Primal Scene

The Origin of The World

The Origin of Painting

Eros and Psyche

Leander and Hero

The Last Image

The Fourth Night

Esto Es Lo Que Hay


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press