The following content is intended for a mature audience....
Many people think of the Renaissance as a period of courtly love illustrated by the love-sick knight wooing his fair virgin from afar, never to debase her with his sexual desires. Petrarchan verses and Shakespearean love sonnets further portray this ideal of platonic love. True, these notions of courtly love were a strong part of Renaissance culture. But beneath the quixotic tales of Romeo and Juliet lay a darker side to the Renaissance led by the artists and writers of Italy.
In short, the people of Renaissance Italy were very naughty.
It is these frisky Italians that we can thank for tons of printed erotica. One of the best examples of the Italian Renaissance attitude toward sexuality can be found in La Cazzaria: The Book of the Prick. For those of you who might not be familiar with this great work of homoerotic satire, Antonio Vignali wrote The Book of the Prick in 1525 as a ribald allegory for the power politics that threatened the independence of Siena. Vignali uses the metaphor of different body parts to communicate this struggle for power. And just like any lewd frat boy joke, you can guess which body part comes out on top. *
The picture on the left is from The Book of the Prick featuring a profile of a man composed of well….it ain’t fruit. Certainly, the print at least shows the playful side of Renaissance erotica for the inscription deftly translates as, “everyone looks at me as if I am a dickhead”
Ahhhh yes, I am afraid we do.
*Just like Machiavelli’s The Prince, The Book of the Prick was written for the academic male elite and not intended for public consumption. In other words, his mother would not have read it.
Sources and Futher Reading:
Antonio Vignali, Arsiccio & Moulton Frederick, Ian. La Cazzaria: The Book of the Prick, New York: NY, Routledge, 2003.
Sunday at the Met Series : Sex in the Eternal City - Can be downloaded off of uTunes.