Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Profane Renaissance

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.


10 comments:

Ms. Lucy said...

what a controversial book for the times (or maybe not...)I'm just wondering how she, as a woman, got away with writing it?

Farin said...

The Metropolitan Museum recently had an exhibit about love in Renaissance Italy that included an entire section of erotica. They didn't have anything from The Book of the Prick, but they did have original drawings from I Modi, or The Sixteen Pleasures. Randy little buggers, those Renaissance folks!

Bearded Lady said...

Hi Farin, Yes, I believe many of the erotica that they wanted to show got vetoed by the powers that be. You can see some of the more randy prints in their fascinating lectures (download off of utunes)

Ms. Lucy the author was 100% red-blooded male which is why it is interesting to compare his social commentary to Machiavelli's The Prince - both written for the male elite...except Vignali's work has a far more misogynistic tone. You can get a copy of the book off of Amazon. I found it kind of dull (the bawdy jokes get tiresome after awhile) but it does give us a interesting look into the politics of the time.

Marie Reed said...

I saw Arcimboli's testa di cazi in person recently... He has quite a way with fruits and nuts doesn't he:)

Marie Reed said...

May I ask when Markham's interview will be posted? I am a Napoleon - aholic and am in an excited tizzy! I feel like a 5 year old in the car who is asking,'I we there yet? Are we there yet.'

Bearded Lady said...

Interview coming soon...probably in a week or two. David is finishing off taping a special for the History Channel.

Carrie K said...

Ah, so that's where the phrase originated! lol.

Ms. Lucy said...

Ok, well now I get it...that makes way more sense. Thanks for clarifying...you're a wonderful history teacher:)

Ms. Lucy said...

Again, I'm rereading your post and again, I'm reading it Antoni'a' Vignali..my eyes are definitely playing tricks on me!

Bearded Lady said...

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. I got sloppy and spelled his name wrong in one place. Thank god for the edit button!