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  • “The spirit is ready, but the flesh is tired”: Erotic objects and marriage in early modern Italy

Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta, 2010, Book Section, “The spirit is ready, but the flesh is tired”: Erotic objects and marriage in early modern Italy In: The Erotic Cultures of Renaissance Italy. Ashgate. ISBN 9780754662143

Abstract or Description:

This essay emerged from an invitation to contribute to a session on the theme of Italian Renaissance erotic culture at the Renaissance Society of America’s annual conference in Cambridge (2005). The resulting interdisciplinary volume of essays brought to the fore a new understanding of the historicity of early modern sexuality. In it, Ajmar-Wollheim makes an important claim for the need to re-assess pre-Tridentine eroticism in the light of a more fluid interaction between ‘licit’ and ‘illicit’ sexuality and by opening central questions about the role of sexuality before, within and outside marriage.
Ajmar-Wollheim’s essay explores a variety of domestic objects and practices associated with marriage, from pottery involved within marriage rituals to furnishings for the marital bedroom and sociable games carrying sexually explicit references. She mobilises an array of published and archival sources engaged in the discourse on sexuality (e.g. erotic literature, medical and devotional treatises and private correspondence) to argue for the presence of a very explicit, even licentious sexual culture within the Renaissance home. Ajmar-Wollheim uses a little-studied material source – erotic pottery for the table – to expose the tensions between this quintessentially ‘sociable’ and ‘public’ domestic artefact and the scenes depicted on it, ranging from the decorously effusive to the overtly sexual. The essay examines the spaces and rituals within which these objects would have been used and interpreted. It questions traditional views, which have tended to dissociate conjugal relations from a discourse of licentious sexuality, demonstrating instead the pervasiveness of an explicitly carnal and lascivious, visual and verbal language of sexuality within marriage. In a review of the book in the Oxford Art Journal (2011), Ajmar-Wollheim’s essay is described as an ‘exemplary study’.

Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W800 Imaginative Writing
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2013 10:46
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2014 11:49
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1535

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