Gruia, Ana Maria
Studia Patzinaka, 4/ 2007, pp. 85-122
Sexuality and eroticism have long been a focal point in popular culture. Academic discourse has however only recently begun to free itself from prudery and prejudice in discussing views of sexuality in past eras. I use here the results of those studies approaching one category of medieval iconography generally labeled as “obscenity”, “pornography” or simply “sexual display”. Shocking images appear on the most diverse media throughout, but especially towards the end of the Middle Ages: manuscripts, capitels and consoles, misericords, badges, furniture, prints, etc. But what do they mean? No consensus has been reached as to the possible medieval functions and interpretations of such images. There is evidence supporting several different interpretations, which will be discussed below, but the overall conclusion is that the obscene images, although they must have triggered different reactions that ours today, were multivalent and ambiguous.