The Renaissance codpiece: a medical explanation?

Posted: December 13, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday, my friends over at Medievalists.net posted this fascinating article by C. S. Reed, from the Internal Medicine Journal, on that near-ubiquitous feature of 15th- and 16th-century painting, the codpiece.  Says Reed:

The codpiece had proportions that were at times grotesque, and so extreme that the question of the purpose of its use arises. Art gallery guides speculate that the codpiece represented a statement of the virility of the individual and could be looked on as a sex promotion object. This is clearly the impression gained from, for example Holbein’s portrayal of Henry VIII, arms akimbo, broad shouldered, groin thrust forward, the very epitome of a lusty male. The codpiece, however, may have been a disguise for underlying disease.

A most intriguing article.  Thanks yet once more to Medievalists.net!

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