New feature: Sexuality and sainthood

// 9 May 2008

Cranach painted Venus to titillate Luther’s contemporaries and chaste virgins aimed at keeping women in check, argues Itala Atteih

Cranach's VenusAs soon as I had heard that a poster of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s ‘Venus’ was initially banned from display in the London Underground, I knew I had to go see the exhibition that is causing such a stir.

My original perception of Cranach was of a German artist working in the Northern Renaissance period. More crucially, I knew of him as the close companion of Martin Luther and a participant in the religious Reformation taking place at the time, and so to hear of a risqué portrayal of Venus by the artist surprised me.

Many have speculated over the reasons for the ban, suggesting it may be because the figure resembles a young girl rather than a woman, or that certain religious groups have asked for it to be banned, or it may just be because the painting is a depiction of an overtly sexualised, full-frontal female nude. Whatever the reasons, I was intrigued and so I visited the exhibition with many expectations and burning questions.

Read on here

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 9 May 2008 at 10:40 pm

Excellent article because it demonstrates how male-defined views of women and women’s sexualities continue to be defined and controlled by men for men. Also, of course, before pornography became available in print, artists were often commissioned to paint pornographic paintings for men’s private collection. Whereas paintings depicting religious scenes were for private viewing in churches or similar religious institutions.

The misogynistic belief that female sexuality is dangerous, bad and must be kept severly under male control has as Itala Attieh says, been dominant for centuries. One only has to remember of the ‘slag versus stud phrase which is still widely believed. Of course nude male images were never depicted in an eroticised form because that would be contrary to beliefs at that time. When Cranach was painting female sexuality not male sexuality was believed to be uncontrollable once aroused and therefore women were blamed for causing men to rape and sexually abuse them. Now of course, male sexuality is believed to be uncontrollable once aroused but it is still women who are blamed for men’s sexual violence against them. Patriarchy does change but its essence remains the same which is the control and oppression of women’s sexuality for the benefit of men not women.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds