The Renaissance Kama Sutra The Catholic Church Destroyed
jueves, 11 de mayo de 2017 12:39|Eduardo Limon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia