Did Catherine The Great Really Have A Room Full Of Pornographic Furniture? The Story Behind The Legend

Published April 25, 2024

A reputed nymphomaniac, Russian Empress Catherine the Great has inspired a wealth of wild rumors — including that she built a “cabinet” filled with X-rated furniture next to her suite of rooms.

Catherine The Great Furniture

Public DomainAn erotic chair rumored to be part of Catherine the Great’s furniture collection.

Catherine the Great served as Empress of Russia for over 30 years during the 18th century, modernizing the country and shifting the power structures of Europe. And as one of the most powerful women in European history, she was also the subject of many outrageous rumors.

Perhaps the most infamous of these was Catherine’s supposedly insatiable sexual appetite. Widely reputed to be a nymphomaniac, she was said to have had as many as 300 lovers. Some have even (falsely) claimed that she died while having sex with a horse.

But one of the most plausible of these rumors is that Catherine once commissioned a collection of erotic furniture. This legend appears to be linked to a pair of widely circulated black-and-white images of a table and chair decorated with pornographic imagery.

To date, no one has been able to prove that these pieces belonged to the empress. But if the story is true, it certainly paints an intriguing picture of Catherine the Great’s personal life.

The Life Of Catherine The Great

Born Princess Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst in 1729, Catherine the Great was raised among the aristocracy of Prussia until the age of 16. Then, her family organized a political marriage between her and Peter III of Russia.

The wedding between Catherine and Peter took place in 1745. But despite their families’ hopes, they remained staunchly uninterested in each other — so much so, in fact, that according to some historians, the couple never consummated their marriage.

Instead, within a few short years, Catherine began an illicit affair with Sergei Saltykov, a Russian officer. Historians point to Catherine’s Memoirs, in which she confesses to spending a substantial amount of time with the officer, as possible evidence that he even fathered her first child, Paul.

Catherine The Great

Wikimedia CommonsThe legend of Catherine the Great’s furniture collection is somewhat controversial.

After birthing her son and heir, Catherine continued to pursue affairs with various men. In total, historians estimate that she likely had between 12 to 22 lovers in her lifetime.

In 1762, Catherine led a successful coup against Peter III that resulted in her estranged husband abdicating the throne, thereby making Catherine reigning Empress by default.

During her rule, Catherine the Great sought the reputation of enlightened despot, modernizing Russia and strengthening the Russian empire through various reforms. She is best known for reforming Russia’s education system, expanding the empire’s borders, and promoting Enlightenment ideals. Her involvement in Russian culture and politics made her one of the most famous figures of her day. And with that fame came rumors.

The majority of the gossip surrounding the queen concerned her sex life. And over the years, the story of Catherine the Great’s erotic furniture became legendary.

The Controversial Tale Of Catherine The Great’s Rumored Erotic Furniture

According to legend of unknown origin, Catherine the Great once ordered a “cabinet” of erotic furniture to be built next to her suite of rooms.

The queen was said to have outfitted this chamber with “a range of chairs, desks, and screens all decorated with pornographic images,” according to a 2013 Sang Bleu Magazine article. One of the chamber’s walls was allegedly completely covered with decorative wooden phalluses of all shapes and sizes.

While these rumors have never been substantiated, some have claimed that a pair of mysterious black-and-white photos that surfaced in recent years features two of Catherine’s prized pieces: a table with male genitalia and breasts for legs, and a chair decorated with graphic depictions of fellatio.

Catherine The Great Table

Public DomainThis table with penis motifs was allegedly part of Catherine the Great’s furniture collection.

The story goes that during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, two Wehrmacht officers stumbled upon a collection of erotic furniture that Catherine the Great had purportedly owned in her lifetime, and snapped photos of the X-rated pieces.

However, historians have never found concrete evidence that these pieces belonged to the empress — or even that the photographs were found by Wehrmacht officers in the first place.

Other Examples Of Erotic Furniture Throughout History

The alleged Catherine the Great furniture pieces are covered in erotic motifs that, if real, would have certainly fired up passions in 18th-century Europe.

However, this desire to create furniture that sexually excites was not a new phenomenon. Erotic furniture from ancient times also made a mark on the historical record.

According to historian Julia Assante in the book Ancient Near Eastern Art In Context, ancient Assyrians created erotic furniture as early as the 13th century B.C.E. Some of their most notable pieces included small-scale reliefs of nude men and women engaged in sexual acts. These designs, according to Assante, were meant to serve as decorative inserts for the furniture of the elite.

Other notorious examples of erotic furniture from history include Edward VII of England’s “love chair.” This piece was specifically designed for the monarch to engage in trysts with up to two other people at once.

Edward Vii Love Chair

M.S. Rau AntiquesEdward VII’s love chair, made to facilitate threesomes.

The Uncertain Fate Of Catherine The Great’s Furniture

Clearly, the concept of erotic furniture was nothing new during Catherine the Great’s reign. But the suggestion that she owned these erotic pieces is still highly controversial.

For one, while the Wehrmacht officers allegedly filed a report about the furniture after discovering it, historians have yet to identify such a report.

Perhaps the most damning evidence against this urban legend is the proposed timeline. According to the legend, the officers claimed to have found the furniture in 1940 — despite the fact that the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union did not begin until 1941.

Historians also point out that rumors of Catherine the Great’s erotic furniture were not documented until years after her death. It’s possible that they were just more attempts to besmirch her name.

Unfortunately, no one has ever been able to find the erotic furniture pieces for further study. It’s certainly possible the Nazis carted them away during the invasion, or that they were destroyed during the war.

Regardless, the vintage images of the photos demonstrate that such pieces did exist, whether they belonged to Catherine the Great or not. As such, they are part of a long tradition of humans looking to make their everyday furnishings a pinch more titillating.

And for Catherine the Great, a ruler who appears to have appreciated the spicier side of life, coital furniture doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

After reading about Catherine the Great’s erotic furniture, discover 29 photos of erotic art throughout history. Then, dive into the grisly crimes of Ed Gein, the serial killer who used his victims’ body parts to make furniture.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Morgan, Amber. "Did Catherine The Great Really Have A Room Full Of Pornographic Furniture? The Story Behind The Legend." AllThatsInteresting.com, April 25, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/catherine-the-great-furniture. Accessed May 23, 2024.