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Q: the defacing of the male member on pagan male statuary by the renaissance church ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: the defacing of the male member on pagan male statuary by the renaissance church
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: gigi88-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 08 Sep 2003 11:27 PDT
Expires: 08 Oct 2003 11:27 PDT
Question ID: 253553
any information on the defacing of the male member after the time of
Michelangelo in the renaissance church. The systematic covering up or
chiseling off of male genitalia by the church administration. Also
there is a german art historian (now dead) a woman who, because there
is a drawer full of the marbles in the Vatican is trying to set them
back on their original statues.
Subject: Re: the defacing of the male member on pagan male statuary by the renaissance ch
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 18 Sep 2003 11:31 PDT
Combined with the comments, this is the best answer that I can make.

Further research confirms my comments: there was no express policy to
mutilate the ancient sculptures that were part of the Vatican's
collections. Indeed, the statues came out of the ground in fragmentary
condition and were "restored", first in the 16th Century and later in
the 18th. This process of restoration embodied an attitude toward
conservation that has been rejected in recent decades, and the earlier
restorations have been removed. Part of the process of restoration
does seem to have involved the covering of the genital areas of the
statuary, but in most cases the action was evidently superfluous --
the objects to be concealed were already missing. Undoubtedly, the
urge to cover the pagan art in the sacred buildings was identical in
origin with the impulse to censor sacred art as expressed by the
Council of Trent, but it would appear to be an erroneous conclusion to
say that there was an organized effort to purge classical sculptures
of their genitalia. Rather, there was a general censorious attitude.
If one considers what were arguably the most celebrated classical
statues in the Vatican, the Apollo and the Laocoön in the Belvedere
(Museo Pio e Clementino), it becomes clear that the damage had been
done long before the statues ever were acquired by the Papacy.

The Apollo was discovered in the 1490s*, while the Laocoön was found
in the ruins of the Golden House of Nero in 1506. Both appear to have
been displayed unaltered until a friend of Michelangelo Buonarotti,
Giovanni Angolo Montorsoli, on the recommendation of Michelangelo
himself, was commissioned by Pope Clement to restore the statues.** It
seems unlikely that the statues would have been covered at that time,
considering Michelangelo's involvement. (He had refused the commission

An engraving by Marco Dente shows that the Laocoön group was already
damaged when it was discovered.

Laokoon :
The Reading of a Masterpiece

"Michelangelo did know it, since the group, when first found, on
January 14, 1506, was
immediately recognized by Guuiliano da Sangallo as that mentioned by
Pliny (Natural History 36.37), who pronounced it superior to any work
in sculpture and painting. A charcoal sketch found in 1976 on a wall
in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo in Florence shows the head of a bearded
man seen from above; it was probably made by Michelangelo, from
memory, reflecting his first glimpse of the Laokoon while being
excavated in Rome. It is said that the sculptor refused to restore the
group which, when unearthed, lacked the arms of the father and of both
sons, as well as other minor pieces, as revealed in an early-16 th
century etching by Marco Dente."

MFA - Online Collections Database - Object Fu...

Raffael und die Folgen

Catalogue 0f Images - The Trojan War - An illustrated companion

Laocoon and his sons

Another roughly contemporaneous engraving by Dente shows what can only
be assumed to be the  state of a proposed restoration of the Laocoön.
(Dente died in 1527.)

Marco Dente$Record?56699&=list&=1&=&=And&=983&=0&=keywords&=Yes&=&=&=16%20&=Yes&=&=f

[Image can be magnified using the Zoom function.]

Other images:,1.0&hei=250&cvt=jpeg

The Apollo presents a similar case study.


"APOLLO BELVEDERE, a famous marble statue in the part of the Vatican
museum called Belvedere ...Montorsoli, a pupil of Michelangelo,
restored the hands but did so wrongly, for the right hand was not
empty but held a laurel branch, and the left hand held a bow, as
testified by the quiver on the back of the figure."


Met Timeline | Apollo Belvedere
[period engraving, 1530-1534]

Philadelphia Museum of Art: Revivals, Reveries, and Reconstructions:
Images of Antiquity in Prints from 1500 to 1800
[slightly later, ca. 1592, restored Apollo]

[The Apollo Belvedere] by Jean Cousin from Platemark
[late 16th Century]

Based on those images, one can say rather confidently that the statue
was exhibited unadorned during the Counter Reformation, and that the
fig leaf was added much later.

The charge that there was a systematic attempt to vandalize Classical
statues seems totally unfounded. The most that can be charged against
the curatorial functionaries of the Vatican is that they adopted a
scheme of concealment at some later period, probably in the 18th or
19th Centuries.

*Kenneth Clark, the late eminent art critic and historian, places the
date earlier, in the 1480s, based on its appearance in a pattern book,
Codex Escurialensis, folios 53 and 64.
Note 51, pp 378-379, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, Princeton
University Press, Princeton, 1956

[The statue was found in the garden of the church of S. Pietro in
Vincoli, seat of Cardinal Giuliano de Medici, who later moved the
figure to the Vatican after his accession to the Papacy as the
militant Julius II, Michelangelo's famous and long-suffering patron.
Clark notes that the restored arm was actually less damaged when
excavated than it is now, then only the fingers being broken.
Montorsoli amputated the arm to the elbow.]

**Vasari, Giorgio, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects,
Dent/Dutton, London and New York, 1963, 1970

"Michelagnolo {Bounarotti] being then at Rome with Pope Clement, who
wished the work of S. Lorenzo to be continued, the Pope, who had sent
for him about this, asked for a youth to restore some broken antiques
of the Belvedere. Michelagnolo suggested Agnolo [Montorsoli] ...Agnolo
therefore went to Rome and restored the left arm of the Apollo and the
right arm of the Laocoon in the Belvedere..."
{life of Fra Giovann' Agnolo Montorsoli, translation by A.B. Hinds,
vol. 4, pg. 40)





Subject: Re: the defacing of the male member on pagan male statuary by the renaissance church
From: hlabadie-ga on 08 Sep 2003 16:56 PDT
Many Antique statues suffered mutilation in Antiquity. One such
incident of mass vandalism in Athens was a factor in the exile of the
general Alcibiades.

On the other hand, there was certainly a prudery in the period of the
Counter Reformation, during which Michelangelo's Last Judgment was
censored. Daniele da Volterra was hired to paint draperies on the
nudes of the fresco.



Subject: Re: the defacing of the male member on pagan male statuary by the renaissance church
From: hlabadie-ga on 11 Sep 2003 12:40 PDT
Without the name of the deceased German art historian, I can't comment
on her particular thesis.

I can find no evidence that there was a Church policy for the
mutilation or censoring of pagan art during the period after the
lifetime of Michelangelo. There was, however, a puritanical movement
within the Church, culminating in the Council of Trent, to expurgate
art that treated sacred subjects, and to draw a seperator between
secular and sacred art. This was partially in reaction to
Protestantism, which was rigidly iconoclastic in many regions, and
partially an expression of the reformism within the Church itself
(Protestantism was, after all, initially an internal effort to reform
the Church). The Council, while rejecting iconoclasm, laid down
guidelines for sacred art, some of which banned the display of
genitalia, breasts, and buttocks. Among the more active reformers were
the Theatines, the Order of Regular Clerks, founded in the Italian
city Chieti (Theate), one of whose founders, Giovanni Pietro Carafa,
later became Pope Paul IV (1555-1559). Carafa was instrumental in the
revival of the Holy Inquisition in Rome, and served as its chief. It
was Paul IV who issued the Index of prohibited books, and who proposed
the total eradication of Michelangelo's Last Judgment, and it was only
because of the artist's fame and powerful friends that the compromise
was reached by which the fresco's nudes were repainted by Daniele da
Volterra. Thus, Michelangelo himself became a focus for the
reformists, because he worked on sacred subjects, but there does not
appear to have been a broader concerted effort by the Church itself to
censor secular works. Indeed, the princes of the Church remained
patrons of secular art.

Michelangelo and Censorship

Paul IV

Catholic Encyclopedia Theatines

Modules - Department of Art History
V4* 118 Reformation to Counter-Reformation: the South

"The Council of Trent and the Visual Arts

Lecture Outline:

One of the underlying assumptions of all art theory in the 16th
century is the neoplatonic assumption of he moral efficacy of beauty.
This metaphysical function of art directly relies on the ability of
beauty to give the viewer access to an exalted level of reality, and
to allow the spectator access to a vision of the divine. There was
never a danger of iconoclam in Italy, in the same way as the Northern
protestants had turned against the use of images. The reasons for this
were that the use of images in the South was not only something which
was deeply engrained into the religious culture, but was also directly
related to humanistic notions, and thus reflected intellectual
preoccupations of the most powerful elites. This perception of beauty
as an essential quality of good art made no distinction between what
sort of beauty the viewer was confronted with, be it pagan, be it a
decorative work, be it Christian, yet it was the Council of Trent who
introduced value judgements to this perception of beauty by spelling
out what type of art would be suitable and decorous.

The one thing the Council of Trent never questioned was the use of
images. Art was needed as a means of spiritual elevation. Complaints
about the ways in which sacred subjects were depicted date to the
1540's; one writer, Ambrogio Catarino wrote that he had seen Some
images so extravagant that you can hardly recognize the human figure
in them …. And elsewhere you see compositions made with so much
artifice that at times among so many improper gestures they ignore the
decorum of the figures, and they do not have any dignity and do not
excite any devotion at all.
1542 reestablishment of the Roman inquisition. Executive religious
body which could operate independent of secular law courts

On the 3rd and 4th December 1563, during the 25th session of the
Council of Trent, the delegates debated purgatory, and reforms
concerning regulars and nuns. The most famous decree from that day,
though, is the decree on the Invocation, veneration and Relics of
saints, and on sacred images:

'The Holy Council commands all bishops and others who hold the office
of teaching […] that in accordance with the usage of the Catholic and
Apostolic church, received from the primitive times of the Christian
religion, and with the unanimous teaching of the Holy Fathers and the
decrees of sacred councils, they above all instruct the faithful
diligently in matters relating to intercession and invocation of the
saints, the veneration of relics, and the legitimate use of images,
teaching them that[...]they think impiously who deny that the saints
who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven are to be invoked, or who assert
that they do not pray for men, or that our invocation of them to pray
for each of us individually is idolatry, or that it is opposed to the
word of God […][...] Moreover, as the images of Christ, of the Virgin
Mother of God, and of the other saints are to be placed and retained
especially in the churches, and that due honour and veneration is to
be given them; not however that any divinity or virtue is believed to
be in them by reason of which they are to be venerated, or that
something is to be asked of them, or that trust is to be placed in
images, as was done of old by the Gentiles who placed their hope in
idols; but because the honour which is shown them is referred to the
prototypes which they represent, so that by means of the images which
we kiss and before which we uncover the head and prostrate ourselves,
we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likeness they bear […]
Moreover, let the bishops diligently teach that by means of the
stories of the mysteries of our redemption, portrayed in paintings and
other representations the people are instructed and confirmed in the
articles of faith, which ought to be borne in mind and constantly
reflected upon.; also that great profit is derived from all holy
images, not only because the people are thereby reminded of the
benefits and gifts bestowed on them by Christ, but also through the
saints the miracles of God and salutary examples are set before the
eyes of the faithful, so that they may give God thanks for those
things, may fashion their own life and conduct in imitation of the
saints, and be moved to adore and love God and cultivate piety. […] If
any abuses shall have found their way into these holy and salutary
observances, the Holy Council desires earnestly that they be
completely removed, so that no representation of false doctrines and
such as might be the occasion of grave error to the uneducated be
exhibited.[…] In the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics,
and the sacred use of images, all superstition shall be removed, all
filthy quest for gain eliminated, and all lasciviousness avoided, so
that images shall not be painted and adorned with a seductive charm,
or the celebration of saints and the visitation of relics be perverted
by the people into boisterous festivities and drunkenness, as if the
festivals in honour of the saints are to be celebrated with revelry
and with no sense of decency. Finally, such zeal and care should be
exhibited by the bishops with regards to those things, that nothing
may appear that is disorderly or unbecoming, and confusedly arranged,
nothing that is profane, nothing disrespectful, since Holiness
becometh the house of God. That these things be the more faithfully
observed, the Holy Council decrees that no one is permitted to erect
or cause to be erected in any place or church, howsoever exempt, any
unusual image unless it has been approved by the bishop...'"

Counter-Reformation Art

"Art was enlisted to serve the purposes of the church militant, but
that art was rigorously policed according to a system of decorum in
painting which dictated what was and what wasn't acceptable in art. It
was all set out by Cardinal Paleotti in 1584 and reinforced by Carlo
Borromeo, the young, energetic archbishop of Milan who spent time in
Rome. Borromeo gave voice to the new Church doctrines in the manuals
he wrote for architects and artists, as well as for students and
teachers in the many seminaries he founded. Nudity and eroticism were
out, as was anything from the pagan classical past - false gods."

[Note that the manuals of Paleotti and Borromeo were designed as
guides for artists regarding the proper and the improper within the
context of sacred art, not as invectives against profane art.]

The Impact of the Counter-Reformation on Art:
Baroque Art in Catholic Europe (Italy, France, Belgium)
Counter Reformation.doc

"1. The Council of Trent: Correct Doctrine, Narrative Clarity and
Religious Content.
To deal with the challenges of the Reformation, Pope Paul III convened
a church council which met on and off for twenty years (1544-1566).
The Council of Trent reaffirmed correct church doctrine on a wide
variety of issues and even accepted a few Protestant complaints by
forbidding the sale of indulgences. Among other things, the Council of
Trent issued guidelines for religious art, asking for greater clarity,
realism, emotional drama, dogmatic instruction, and the avoidance of
genital nudity."

Susanna Bede Caroselli
Rules of Engagement:
The Use of Instinctive Response as a Scholarly Tool

Forschungsstelle "Westfälischer


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