Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Answer #3

Codpiece #3 Charles V (The Downward Dog)
This portrait is by Titian (1532). The first thing you might notice about Charles' codpiece is its curious shape. It sort of resembles a bifurcated croissant. Crescent shapes were associated with the Turks and their conventions toward stricter morality. Unlike their European neighbors, the Turks did not suffer from widespread syphilis outbreaks due to their abstemious attitudes toward sexuality. (Seeing a syphilitic patient's nose fall off can do that to a person.) So while it may seem like Charles is ostentatiously advertising his masculinity he may be emphasizing fidelity over virility.*

Charles' codpiece also points downward instead of out or up like Henry VIII's and Francis' codpiece. The purpose of this design may have been to prevent any embarrassing bulges.** Could the croissant-shaped codpiece be a kind of Renaissance chastity belt?

You will also notice that the dog is rather intimately close to the object of our discussion. Titian just loved to put dogs in his paintings so it's hard to know if the dog has meaning or if Titian just wanted yet another dog in the portrait. If you want to analyse it....dogs typically represented fidelity, strength and courage in Renaissance art depending on what the dog was doing and the breed of dog. The primary purpose of the larger mastiffs was to defend their masters so this dog may represent loyalty. Personally, I think the dog is just about to do that thing that dogs love to do.

*Charles was rumored to have contracted syphilis but we have no proof that these rumors were true.
**Really, that works? I hate when I can't test a theory.

1 comment:

Leslie Carroll said...

Okay, Carlyn, that is truly hysterical! Your guess about the reason for the dog's proximity to his master's um ... crotch ... is as good as mine, though isn't that what dogs do?

Have you seen one of Henry VIII's suits of armor on display at the Tower of London? It has a huge metal codpiece (ego, Henry?) that juts straight out!