In The News : Private Parts In Art

The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.  Its depicts 626 humans, 190 horses, 35 dogs, 37 trees, 32 ships, 33 buildings – and 93 penises.  Four of these penises are attached to living men, one to a dead man and the rest – including the biggest – belong to horses.

George Garnett, of St Hugh’s College at the University of Oxford (who counted the members), concluded that the two biggest penises belonging to King Harold’s horse and one protruding from the horse presented by a groom to a figure who must be Duke William, just prior to the battle of Hastings, were implications of the virility of the horses’ owners.

On modern day parlance, I can’t help but think this is the equivalent of someone driving a fast car like a moron.

The penises belonging to humans were not only put their for fun, apparently, but related to Phaedrus’s Latin versions of Aesop’s fables.  One depiction of a naked man, with erection, reaching out towards a naked woman appears in the bottom border of the tapestry and may actually be showing a father raping his daughter – “perhaps the designer considered relevant the theme of a treacherous act of predation which could scarcely have been more heinous”.

Other willies “involve illicit sex, dissimulation, deceit and betrayal and suggest to the well-read viewer a subversive interpretation of the main action”.

In other words, the knobs were there for a reason and told more obvious stories, even if the Professor isn’t quite sure who the audience was.

It wasn’t the only artwork to be critiqued in the news last week.  Queer performance artist Abel Azcona has taken his critique of US President Donald Trump to the next level recently: by tattooing the words of the president’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” in a circle around his anus.

I won’t be able to did this justice, so Azcona said:

I always worked my body as a weapon and a political tool.  For more than 12 years I have been performing political and social performances and exhibitions that have led me to jail, detention or death threats. I believe in the empowerment of the body and of the pain. The anus is a pleasure zone for many people, and an area of sin for others. I think demystifying what the anus is, and writing a fascist political motto like that in my anus, is a clearly critical and subversive action.

The Bayeux Tapestry was made in the 11th century, and people are still studying its imagery to learn about the people of the time.  I’m not sure many people will be looking at the guy’s arsehole in the same way, other than possibly thinking he was a bit of an idiot.

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