Erotic art history (16) --- 16th century (?)

 (From the pages of Erotic Art History)

Today’s piece of historic erotic art comes to us from Dorset, England and is known as the Cerne Abbas Giant. The piece was made by cutting the surface of the earth and filling it with chalk from a nearby chalk pit and depicts a large nude male figure with a sizeable erection with one arm outstretched and the other carrying a knobbed club. Details that are largely to completely no longer visible include a cloak or skin hanging over the right arm, a severed head that the giant is standing over, three roughly cut letters in between the giant’s legs, and a pentagon boarder surrounding the giant. As an interesting historical detail, the giant’s already large member was increased to its current size by merging the head of his cock with his navel and allowing the vegetation to grow in and erase the previous lines.

There is controversy regarding its age with the argued range placing it anywhere from ancient times to the late 1600’s when it was recorded for the first time. Contributing to the debate is the fact that there are land survey’s of the area prior to that point that almost certainly would have mentioned it, though it is also possible that it was overgrown and the 1600′s is simply when the art was cleared in semi-modern times.

Competing theories as to who is being depicted range from it being an ancient Saxon or Celtic god to the Roman Hercules to a political satire of Oliver Cromwell, who was running England at the time the image re/appeared. The evidence best supports it being Hercules who was frequently depicted as carrying a club in one hand a carrying the Nemean lion’s skin over his arm. (Killing the Nemean lion was the first of Hercules twelves labors. The lion had claws that could cut through any armor, and most relevantly, the lion’s golden fur was totally impervious to attack and could not be penetrated. Once Hercules killed it either by hitting it on the head with his club and strangling it or by shooting it in the mouth with an arrow, depending on which rendition of the tale you are listening to, he then used the lion’s own claws to skin it and then used the skin as a shield from that point forward.) For more information, read the Wikipedia articles in the reference section below.



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