The Renaissance Kama Sutra That The Catholic Church Destroyed - Cultura Colectiva

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The Renaissance Kama Sutra That The Catholic Church Destroyed

Pornography has been present throughout all of humanity’s historical eras, even the Renaissance. Most artistic work of the time had religious, Greek, and Roman motifs. The human body was being studied and observed more than ever before. With such a wide world opening up in front of humanity’s eyes, it was natural for artists to leave eroticism […]


Pornography has been present throughout all of humanity’s historical eras, even the Renaissance. Most artistic work of the time had religious, Greek, and Roman motifs. The human body was being studied and observed more than ever before. With such a wide world opening up in front of humanity’s eyes, it was natural for artists to leave eroticism aside. Or at least, that’s what I thought, and I’m glad to have found out I was wrong. It turns out, the Renaissance also had its own Kama Sutra, titled I Modi. It was a compilation of sexual positions created by Marcantonio Raimondi —Rafael Sanzio’s engraver—, who got his inspiration from a series of paintings by Giulio Romano. The artist featured mythological and historical characters in his engravings, and was thrown into jail due to his subversive representation of non-procreational sex.


kama sutra renaissance art venus

Creating this book in this specific historic period was what made it such a huge scandal. Just a century before, prints or any other publication, were handmade. This made the process of people acquiring them slightly more complex. With the creation of the printing press, this “pornographic” visual compilation was marketed in Italy, reaching many voyeuristic and curious individuals.


kama sutra renaissance art satyr
kama sutra renaissance art polinesius

kama sutra renaissance art pandora
These images here are the continuation of a work by Giulio Romano for the Palazzo del Te (Tea Palace) in Mantua. This work was commissioned by  Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. His intention, of course, was to portray the human body according to the rational, scientific, and exclusively male gaze. When the highest spheres learned about Raimondi’s continuation, he was frowned upon and prosecuted, particularly by the Catholic Church.

kama sutra renaissance art medor
 kama sutra renaissance art mars
kama sutra renaissance art achilles 
These human bodies clearly show a Raphaelian influence. They have voluptuous anatomies and subtle musculature. In contrast to the Greek and Roman tradition, the size of the genitalia is a bit more exaggerated. It’s narrative is instructional but also entertaining. It reveals a wide variety of sex positions during intercourse, and, at the same time, it works as thorough study of the human body. I almost forgot to mention, women here are depicted as being more astute, clever, and bendy than their partners.

kama sutra renaissance art jupiter kama sutra renaissance art julia
kama sutra renaissance art cleopatra 

These sixteen engravings were like the YouPorn or Pornhub of the Renaissance. These images captured the interest of men and probably stirred the imagination of some women. Those positions were so scandalous because they revealed a world of possibilities. Ironic, isn’t it? Today they would be deemed as basic, and even boring.

kama sutra renaissance art hercules

 kama sutra renaissance art satyrs
kama sutra renaissance art bachus


When Pope Clement VII heard of the book, he was enraged and full of moral indignation. He immediately ordered that all the copies of the engravings destroyed. Everyone thought the ordeal was over, but some copies managed to escape from the flames of the religious fire. Today, there’s no replica of the original work, but there are some loose pages with the engravings at the National Library of France.


kama sutra renaissance art dido
kama sutra renaissance art corina

Walter Toscanini, the son of a renowned orchestra director found a little book with copies of the engravings of I Modi in 1998. They were much smaller and poor quality compared to the originals, but without them, we would have never known some of the deepest conceptions about sexuality in the Renaissance.

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kamasutra renaissance art claudius

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Sources:
El Confidencial
Arqueología e Historia del sexo
Dangerous Minds


Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia

 

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