1st Edition

Sex Acts in Early Modern Italy Practice, Performance, Perversion, Punishment

Edited By Allison Levy Copyright 2010
    302 Pages
    by Routledge

    302 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Emphasizing the peculiar, the perverse, the clandestine and the scandalous, this volume opens up a critical discourse on sexuality and visual culture in early modern Italy. Contributors consider not just painted (conventional) representations of sexual activities and eroticized bodies, but also images from print media, drawings, sculpted objects and painted ceramic jars. In this way, the volume presents an entirely new picture of Renaissance sexuality, stripping away layers of misconceptions and manipulations to reveal an often-misunderstood world. 'Sex acts' is interpreted broadly, from the acting out, or performing, of one's (or another's) sex to sexual activity, including what might be considered, now or then, peculiar practices and preferences and a variety of possibly scandalous scenarios. While the contributors come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, this collection foregrounds the visual culture of early modern sexuality, from representations of sex and sexualized bodies to material objects associated with sexual activities. The picture presented here nuances our understanding of Renaissance sexuality as well as our own.

    Contents: Introduction: strange bedfellows, Allison Levy; Part 1 Practice: Prescriptions, Proscriptions, Positions and Props: Pleasure, shame and healing; erotic imagery on maiolica drug jars, Catherine Hess; Body language: sex-manual literature from Pietro Aretinos' 16 Positions to Antonio Rocco's Invitation to Sodomy, Paolo Fasoli; Prostitution in cinquecento Venice: prevention and protest, Ann Rosalind Jones; The woman in the window: licit and illicit sexual desire in Renaissance Italy, Diane Wolfthal; The cultural history of 'Seigneur Dildoe', Patricia Simons. Part 2 Performance: Protagonists, Pretenders and Purveyors: Prohibited discourse and prohibitive relations: Pietro Fortini's novella of Christian-Jewish love, Karina Feliciano Attar; 'Whorish civility' and other tricks of seduction in Venetian courtesan representation, Chriscinda Henry; Traffic in mistresses: sexualized bodies and systems of exchange in the early modern court, Timothy McCall; Currency and conquest, or love for sale, in Titian's Danaë paintings, Erin Griffey. Part 3 Perversion: Provocative Pairings, Problematic Partners: Peaches and figs: bisexual eroticism in the paintings and burlesque poetry of Bronzino, Will Fisher; 'Divenni madre e figlia di mio padre': queer lactations in Renaissance and baroque art, Jutta Sperling; Incest and inflection in Della Porta's La Sorella, Rachel E. Poulsen. Part 4 Punishment: Pleasure and Pain: Acts, orientations and the sodomites of San Gimignano, Robert Mills; The craft of torture: bronze sculptures and the punishment of sexual offense, Allie Terry; Controlling courtesans: Lorenzo Venier's Trentuno della Zaffetta and Venetian sexual politics, Daniella Rossi; A cock burning in the darkness: Giordano Bruno's 'story of the bedtrick', Sergius Kodera; Bibliography; Index.


    Allison Levy is an art historian concerned with representations of the early modern body. She is author of Re-membering Masculinity in Early Modern Florence: Widowed Bodies, Mourning and Portraiture and editor of Widowhood and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe.

    'Princes and paupers; birds and melons; great art and lascivious sketches; love and lust - in this collection of pathbreaking essays all take on new meanings and spark adventuresome flights of discovery that suggest exciting new ways of rethinking Early Modern Italy. If anyone has any remaining doubts about the importance of sex for the history, literature, art, or simply the life of Early Modern Italy, this challenging, significant volume by a noteworthy group of scholars will lay those doubts to rest.' Guido Ruggiero, University of Miami, USA

    ’Ashgate, a press remarkable for the high seriousness of its scholarly publications, has with Erotic Cultures of Renaissance Italy and Sex Acts in Early Modern Italy stormed the citadel of all who blindly refuse to acknowledge that the Italian Renaissance in its maturity was driven as much by sex as by religion and politics. Both should compulsorily be read by every intending student of art history.’ Brian Sewell, London Evening Standard

    'This excellent and wide-ranging collection of 16 essays provides an engaging survey of the many intersections of eroticism and the visual arts in early modern Italy, from priapic images on majolica pottery to satyrs’ heads on instruments of torture.' European History Quarterly

    '... this is an impressive collection of articles that goes a long way to advance our understanding of early modern sex and sexuality.' Sixteenth Century Journal