About Us

Shady Ladies Tours is a new kind of tour company…one that puts the fun back into art! Our art museum tours take you to the places that other tours don’t and show you the artworks that other tours won’t—complete with the sexy, intriguing, and sometimes scandalous backstories that cast them in an entirely new light.

After all, you’re an adult now—so it’s time to get a deeper view of gender and sexuality in the world’s great art. But that doesn’t mean we promote the titillating side of art history, because we recognize that gender isn’t just about sex. Our tours give sex and sexuality their due as an important theme in art, but they also explore how culture has represented gender more generally—and in particular, women. We firmly believe that sex and gender are inseparable, and merit just as much attention as the safe and predictable themes on which scholars (and other museum tours) lavish their attention.

That’s because gender and sexual desire are key themes in almost every period and culture. From castrati and courtesans to Near Eastern harems and French kings’ official mistresses, every age has dealt with what it means to be gender roles in its own unusual and fascinating way. Sex, erotic love and women’s status are expressed in different societies in amazingly different ways—and these are often central themes in their artwork. Shady Ladies Art Museum Tours is your chance to learn all about them, and to see even familiar works and periods of art history in a whole new light.

New York Art Museum Tours

We launched our company with a series of tours at New York City's Metropolitan Museum, and have branched out from there. The Met, however, still remains our spiritual home: not only does it have one of the world’s greatest art collections, it’s also one of the very few museums that covers the whole history of art, with works from every period, culture and  genre. As a result, it is a great museum in which to explore cultural history—and it also happens to have an amazing collection of works related to women.

  • Our Shady Ladies of the Metropolitan tour is an assembly of courtesans, mistresses, and professional beauties throughout the ages, from ancient Greek hetaerae to Sargent’s Madame X.
  • Learn all about power and politics with Nasty Women of the Metropolitan: women who shattered glass ceilings in Ancient Egypt, Imperial Rome, Revolutionary France and so many other times and places.
  • Who doesn’t love a detective story? With Gay Secrets of the Metropolitan, that’s what you’ll get—a delightful uncovering of artworks about same-sex love in different times and cultures, all hiding in plain sight.
  • Sexy Secrets of the Metropolitan covers instead the history of sex taboos and scandals—not what we would consider scandalous about earlier cultures but what they considered scandalous and disturbing: the Greeks for instance saw masturbation as ridiculous, while in 19th century France a portrait with a slipping shoulder strap could cause a huge scandal.

Shady Ladies Tours is about erudition and scholarship—our offerings are for people who take their culture seriously. But it’s also about fun. With us, you’ll meet the courtesan who modeled for the first nude statue of Aphrodite; learn about the Roman emperor who deified his young male lover after his suicide; explore the Italian Renaissance and its love of castrato singers; view the royal mistresses of England and France; and discover the sexual culture of Belle Epoque Paris, with ballerinas and their “patrons,” the artistic cult of the femme fatale, and the nascent world of lesbian love…

Join our art museum tours for an adventure like no other, where high art meets desire, culture meets power—and you gain a completely new understanding of history and art.


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Professor Andrew Lear

All of our art museum tours are designed by Professor Andrew Lear and led by a team of dedicated scholar guides.

Professor Lear, a leading scholar on the history of sexuality and a master guide, is the founder of Shady Ladies Tours. With a B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from UCLA, Professor Lear is one of the foremost authorities on the erotic in Greek and Roman art.

His book on Greek vase-painting won widespread praise for its erudition and accessibility, and was hailed by the American Journal of Archaeology as “destined for Classic status.” First and foremost, however, Professor Lear is a teacher. He prides himself on his ability to make high culture accessible to everyone, honed through years of teaching at Columbia, NYU and Harvard—where he won the Harvard Certificate for Excellence in Teaching four times.

With his groundbreaking work on the history of art, his expertise in bringing the past to life and his long experience as a scholar and teacher, Professor Lear is your ideal guide to the always exciting, often racy, world of great art.

Professor Lear's expertise and knowledge is phenomenal. A master host, engaging, exciting, with a fine sense of humor. I look differently at art now, looking for hidden connections Professor Lear opened my eyes to.”—Natalia N. (Trip Advisor review)

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