Master of the Fontainebleau School, Gabrielle d'Estrees and one of her Sisters
Cornelis van Haarlem, Monk with a Nun
Quentin Massys, Grotesque Old Woman
Andrea Mantegna, Saint Sebastian
The holy and the profane, or the spiritual and the corporeal, begun to intermingle in Renaissance life and art. Towards the end of the Renaissance the erotic content became more and more evident. Mannerism produced images where a mythological or allegorical motif appears only as a disguise for erotic contents. Quasi sacred motifs such as Cornelisz's painting The Monk with a Nun were just cover ups for erotica if not almost pornography. This painting was meant for the Prinsenhof (the Princes' Court), which had been set up at the Friars Preachers' Monastery of the Dominicans.
Under the influence of Catholic propaganda, which was advertising the human body as 'sinful' and strictly forbidding any nakedness in Christian iconography, many artists themselves painted over the sinful nudity in their paintings. The Church resisted the spirit of the Renaissance, which had just learned that spirit and body are two sides of the same coin. Its medieval mentality postulated the holiness of spirit and recognized the body just as a part of decaying nature."
In addition to the erotic motifs, we have bizarre and/or extremely violent images including a woman with a full beard nursing a child, a man getting flailed in public and two women violently cutting a man's head off. Aiwaz notes, "The Renaissance cabinet of curiosities consists of unexpected motifs from real and imaginary life that displays, by means of twisted reality, the real spirit, mind and body of the Renaissance man, who is split between medieval superstition and the birth of a new Subject.
Jusepe de Ribera, Bearded Woman
Correggio, Leda with the Swan
Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith beheading Holofernes
Giulio Romano, Jupiter and Olympia
Agnolo Bronzino, Allegory of Lust
Jean Fouquet, Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels
After Michelangelo, Leda and the Swan
Pieter Huys, Temptation of St Anthony
Jan Gossaert, Virgin and Child
photos and text via Aiwaz