Blog Body and Art in the Digital Age

The Middle Ages

By Rosario Gómez
In the tireless desire to take advantage of the potential of Web.2, I want to continue publishing also in alhma.com, the Ars Erotica group, a group of retired teachers, who are doing a magnificent job of collecting sexual images in different artistic periods . In this entry you can see two chapters that collect the most outstanding medieval erotic painting and sculpture in Europe. They help us to appreciate the different evolutions on the subject throughout history and to understand much more in depth the current art images. Little I have to add in the historical terrain since it is not my field of investigation at present, nevertheless, in successive lines to the presentation of erotic Ars, I point out some interesting considerations of other authors specialized in the subject.
Octavio Paz in Double Flame, introduces a very interesting comparative reflection between two visions of life, the Greek and the medieval. Platonic Eros seeks disincarnation while Christian mysticism is above all a love of incarnation, after the example of Christ, who became flesh to save us. But both agree on the need to break with this world and rise to the other, the Platonic for the escape of contemplation and the Christian, for the love of a divinity that, ineffable mystery, has incarnated in a body. The eternal and pure forms of Platonism do not love, unlike the Christian ones, whose redeeming Christ died for men.
Regarding iconography, we have already seen how, unlike other religions that naturally integrated the sexual dimension of man, Christianity tended to deny and repress it. Since the Church was one of the main patterns of the arts in the West until the 18th century, the process had a tremendous effect on painting and sculpture and led to an unmistakable artistic tradition in which the erotic content of many works was presented in an implicit or coded form. However, and paradoxically, it is surprising to see that sexual representations abound in this historical period too. They are mostly placed in temple walls, baptismal fonts, miniatures and even a tapestry.
Jesús Herrero Marcos speaks to us in his text Lust in Romanesque iconography of representations of lascivious demons and coitus adorn capitals and corbels of numerous Romanesque churches in Spain. It is striking that in sacred places there is such an abundance of images of obscene and crude content. Even today, experts do not agree on the reason why such irreverent iconography appears in places dedicated to worship. For some specialists, the phenomenon is a product of the relaxed morality prevailing in the medieval world. For others, such representations were the fruit of the jocular transgressions of the sculptural masters. There is no shortage of those who see in these figures a reflection of the heresies of the time, such as those embodied by the Waldensians, Bogomils and Albigensians or Cathars. These groups, however, more than a licentious life, what they preached and practiced was just the opposite: an ascetic and virtuous existence.
All these theories are difficult to accept for Jesus Herrero, who considers that these obscene sculptures -called, in his opinion, erotic- have as their goal "to teach the illiterate people with explicit images" about their moral and religious obligations. In support of this thesis are those who wield the argument that in this lustful iconography there are many characters who are dragged and tormented in hell, an example of what awaited the violators of the divine law. With pressing demographic needs, high mortality and very low life expectancy, the clergy prepared themselves for the reproduction to be done according to the conditions contained in the Bible. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Church was concerned to delimit the practices destined to perpetuate the species of those that move away from this purpose. In these circumstances, it would not be strange that the need arose to represent the penances that the transgression of the norm entailed.
According to the author, the Romanesque iconography tries to demonize any cultural association with the Great Mother Goddess of the ancient matriarchal societies of Europe.
[1] Jesús Herrero Marcos profusely illustrated with a hundred photographs.

Ars erotic. The Middle Ages, Painting, Eroticism in the Hª of Art http://es.slideshare.net/arseros/la-edad-media-pintura-el-erotismo-en-la-h-del-arte
Sex in the Bible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hf9tyZPYLQs&nohtml5=False
Blacksmith, Jesus.Eroticism in the church.
Lust in Romanesque iconography ': http://www.periodistadigital.com/religion/arte/2011/10/08/religon-iglesia-arte-capiteles-romanico-erotismo.shtml
Peace, Octavio. The double flame

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