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The Prepuce in Italian Art—Evidence from Von Gloeden’s Photographs

DOI: 10.4236/oalib.1102898, PP. 1-8

Subject Areas: Urology, Art, Andrology

Keywords: Prepuce, Foreskin, Penis, Circumcision, Renaissance Art, Classical Art, Baroque Art

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It is well known that the portrayal of the male organ in classical art was subject to strict conventions and was not realistic. To what extent did this tradition carry over to the Italian Renaissance? Jewish Old and New Testament figures were not shown as circumcised, but was this a concession to classical convention or a portrayal of the actual, uncircumcised models? The photographs of Wilhelm von Gloeden, taken between 1890 and 1900, provide an invaluable record of young males in pre-industrial Italian society. Comparing these with paintings from the Italian High Renaissance (1450-1650) we discover a striking, and hitherto unreported, double standard in which juvenile males were depicted realistically whereas adolescents and adults were portrayed in accordance with classical ideals. This has led to misconceptions about the normal appearance of adult male prepuce which persist to the present day.

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Cox, G. (2016). The Prepuce in Italian Art—Evidence from Von Gloeden’s Photographs. Open Access Library Journal, 3, e2898. doi:


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