X-rated Japanese art owned by one of Bedford’s most colourful mayors is to go on display at the British Museum.
George Witt who was Mayor of Bedford in 1834, bequeathed works to the museum which will feature at the Shunga: Sex And Pleasure In Japanese Art exhibition that begins in October.
Staff at the museum have even enforced a parental guidance warning on the exhibit due to its racy nature.
George Witt, was born in 1804 and married his wife Elizabeth Headley at St Mary’s Parish Church in 1832. The soon-to-be mayor was a physician and collector of phallic antiquities. He worked as a highly respected surgeon at Bedford General Infirmary, and after resigning for ‘personal reasons’ became involved in local politics.
He was also heavily involved in town life, sat as a magistrate, and was director of the railway company which built the first trains from Bedford to Bletchley. A plaque on Bedford’s town bridge also bears his name, to commemorate the removal of the toll in 1835.
Local historian David Fowler said: “He was Bedford’s most colourful and interesting mayor.”
It is not known how George Witt’s interest in phallic objects began, but his collection of early Japanese works were considered such fine examples that they were left to the British Museum.
In early modern Japan thousands of sexually explicit works of art were produced and were known to may as Spring Pictures (Shunga).
The current raunchy exhibition, which begins on October 3, is drawn from George Witt’s collection, as well as other from Japan, Europe and America.
Shunga was enthusiastically collected by European artists including Lautrec, Beardsley, Sargent and Picasso, and the British Museum’s collection is thought to be the best outside Japan.
All thanks to Bedford’s mayor with a passion for the risqué!
To find out more about the exhibition and to book tickets visit www.britishmuseum.org