In search of sexual symbolism in medieval art, I find Wound of Christ, Psalter and Prayer book of Bonne de Luxembourg (1345).
“… In this image, Christ’s wound is both seal and vagina …” —Constructing Medieval Sexuality.
ok i was looking through blaze’s likes and saw this and we spent a whole class a few weeks ago in medieval art discussing side wound imagery. there is so much of it and a lot of it is much more sexually suggestive than that.
(Side Wound page from a Book of Hours. England and the Netherlands. 1410.)
people went nuts over the side wound. that one up there also, in addition to looking wildly like ladyparts, has the other crucifixion wounds inside it
there were multiple pieces that had text that told the viewer that the side wound was the exact dimensions and size of the actual wound christ had. here is one.
(Woodcut with Measure of the Side Wound and Body of Christ. Germany. Late 1400’s.)
this one also shows off the other wounds inflicted upon christ during his crucifixion with the wound obvs a substitute for christ’s body. the text on the print also says that if you multiplied the length of the wound by 40, you’d get christ’s exact height.
some of the depictions, including the one directly above, also had instructions on how to be protected from misfortune by meditating and kissing the wound. it even stipulates that you had to turn it sideways. so it’d be like a mouth.
there was also one printed work that had a slit through the wound part so it was actual a literal wound and the red ink of the blood had bled through the cut onto the back side of the piece. (i couldn’t find any pictures of this one online, so)
and the back
(Sacred Heart. Germany, c. 1465.)
we have been talking a lot about the performance and performative nature of medieval art and what that means, how and where pieces were viewed by common people and if they held significance in religious ritual or experience (altarpieces, stained glass etc), if they were public or private pieces and if they were made and individualized for one specific patron (lots of prayer books were made for wealthy people that had actual depictions of the owner in them praying, sometimes even holding the book they were actually reading. instructional and very meta), whether the art was created to be physically interacted with (like some of the aforementioned) or to be kept on one’s person or displayed in one’s home.
medieval art is kind of nice in a way because at least to us, there’s less of an emphasis on the artists themselves, since the vast majority of that information was lost to time or was never meant to be known, so there’s so much more about interpretation and the personal experience of the viewer. artistic intention usually is not focused on so much though medieval art is really big on symbolic, codified objects/references in images rather than mimetic likenesses—no printing presses and all that sorta lent itself to a shying away from literal likeness in portraits to a bunch of symbols and characteristics that a person could see and decode information from, like oh this guy is sitting on a throne that’s being held up by an earth mother with the clergy and military peeps on either side underneath him and the icons of the four gospels surrounding him like in the book of revelation plus he’s holding a crossy sphere and the hand of god is reaching down from heaven almost touching his head and he’s got a full body halo even DANG he must be a mega powerful ruling guy in good standing with god and pretty much the son of god maybe but not quite and he is on top of stuff
(Otto III enthroned in majesty from the Liuthar or Aachen Gospels. Germany, c. 1000.)
instead of like hey this looks like otto III cause he had a weird freaky nose and big chin or something like that. i think that’s awesome and very very interesting.
to go back to the vagina / side wound thing…in class the teacher asked everyone if they thought that that interpretation was valid and if it was intended and i was SO surprised that many of my classmates said that it was a ridiculous and almost offensive idea to foist that kind of sacrilegious view/implication on it. but like come on. it’s not like medieval art was otherwise some kind of super holy pious clean deal. which is what the prof said. “just wait until next week when i show you the penis trees.” (but then she couldn’t find images of them and i was disappointed. but if you want to see some really strange medieval stuff, just google “medieval marginalia”). and also check out this
and a closeup
(Bible Moralisèe: Genesis. France, c. 1225)
christ giving birth from his side wound to a personified version (ecclesia) of the church. into god’s arms! bam.
okay that is pretty much all i have to say. actually i could say a lot more stuff because there’s so much cool stuff in medieval art (check out the bible moralisee because it’s super interesting and i’m not gonna talk more about it because jeez this is a lot of text already and i’ve spent too much time getting excited about all this. also ps the original image i reblogged has got the arma christi in it and that’s a neat thing too).
learn stuff and think about stuff. it is awesome to do.