Hidden Depths

I have to admit that while I can appreciate Renaissance art — paintings, I mean, not the sculptures, which I love — I’ve always found the old guys to be a little too much on the Christian thing.  I mean, how many Madonna w/Baby Jesus renderings are there?

Take Agostino Carracci, for example.  Here’s his “Judith As Woman” work, which should make her the idol of ultra-feminists everywhere:

Then there’s the “Last Communion of St. Jerome”, which may have been big news back in the day, but which is not that relevant in today’s world.

Happily, Carracci (Agostino, not his several brothers, sons and cousins — all artists themselves) didn’t just confine himself to religious themes.  Here’s his “Landscape with Bathers”:

…wait, what’s that detail over on the right?

Nekkid bodies?  With no carefully-draped linen (see Jerome, above) to disguise their nekkidness?

Well;  it turns out that ol’ Aggie had a whole ‘nother body of work in the I Modi school, which probably gave people fits. I’m not quite sure how many of the examples below are his — the style varies, and some were printed from his woodcuts — but here are a few:


  1. they’re just anatomical studies, neh?

    “There are now no known copies of the first two editions of “I modi” by Giulio Romano and Marcantonio Raimondi.”
    Betcha! Betcha! I know where to find a copy. There’s a immense library of “Old Literary Works” right in the center of Rome that, given a lifetime of unfettered access, I’d likely find it.

  2. Charles Russell, in his younger days, before his wife was able to monetize his skill to a greater extent than quick painting for drinks or bar bills, also painted a number of more erotic paintings for bars and various madams. After his death, Nancy Russell spent a lot of time recovering and destroying those paintings. To my knowledge only one has survived, a painting of an Indian sitting in front of a Teepee. The painting was for a bar that had a sort of peep show. For a quarter (big money in 1890) the flap of the Teepee would be lifted to reveal a cowboy in flagrante delicto with an Indian woman.

    1. Classical Rome had razors. How do you think they kept clean-shaven during the Republic and the early Empire. Roman (and Greek) women shaved or singed their pubic hair off as a defense against crabs. Perhaps some men, too, but they’d have been considered effeminate. Greek men considered clean-shaven beardless men like Romans effeminate. Not that it kept them from being conquered by Rome.

  3. I was thinking that the painters knew who to go to when they needed a patron, and if they had to paint some religious paintings to get the gelt, well, that kept body and soul together. The picture of Judith with — John the Baptist? Hayman? seems oddly medieval in Judith’s clothing and hairstyle. I have also seen a painting of St. Anne in her chamber which could be any wealthy woman in her chamber in early Renaissance Italy. Playing on the ignorance of the churchmen as to how clothing and building styles changed in 1500 years, perhaps the artists painted what they wanted and titled them something that got the payment from the rich churchmen.

  4. “…should make her the idol of ultra-feminists…”
    And ‘moderate’ feminists.
    Heck, let’s just say feminists.
    And chunky gals.
    And anybody with more than seven toe-rings.
    Green/purple/blue/two-tone hair jobs?

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