Thérèse philosophe (Therese the Philosopher) is a French novel, published in 1748, written by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens. It is the tale of one young woman’s sexual education, as she relates her experiences in explicit detail to her noble lover.
The narrative starts with Therese, sexually precocious in spite of herself, from solid bourgeois stock, being placed by her mother in a convent when she is 11 years old. There she eventually becomes sick because her pleasure principle is not permitted to express itself, putting her body into disorder, and bringing her close to the grave until her mother finally yanks her out of the convent at age 23.
She then becomes a student of Father Dirrag, a Jesuit who secretly teaches materialism. Therese spies on Dirrag counseling her fellow student, Mlle. Eradice, and preying on her spiritual ambition in order to seduce her. Through flagellation and penetration.
After that she spends time with Mme. C and the Abbé T., and spies on them on multiple occasions, while they discuss libertine political and religious philosophy just before they engage in, and sometimes during, various acts of sex.Read more at Wikipedia
Finally, Therese meets the unnamed Count who wants her for his mistress. She refuses him intercourse, out of her fear of death in childbirth (not unreasonable at the time) and also because she finds masturbation to be sufficiently pleasurable in and of itself. He makes a bet with her. If she can last two weeks in a room full of erotic books and paintings without masturbating, he will not demand intercourse with her. Therese loses and becomes the Count’s permanent mistress.
I did some research to find various artworks by different artists, all for the same story. There aren’t many artists known, while there are various editions of the book with different artworks.
Antoine Borel was the artist who illustrated for the edition published in 1785. There are also some artworks done by an artist or engraver named Delchroche (for who I was unable to find info).