Today I Discovered Jesus' Holy Boner

I used to think classical paintings of Jesus were all the same - if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all, right? Today I discovered this isn't entirely accurate... a bit like the raging erection on a crucifixion victim.

During the Renaissance, a subset of artists decided to go balls out - literally - in their depictions of the Passion. Instead of painting Jesus as a tastefully shrouded paragon of all things virtuous and pure, they showed him in the buff with deliberate erotic undertones. Some even went so far as to give him an erect penis. No, really.

This saucy art movement was so prolific that it has even been given a name - ostentatio genitalium - which literally translates to "the showing of the genitals".

The Wiki for Art History sheds more light on this holiest of hard-ons:

ostentatio genitalium designates a visual convention in which Christ is depicted showing his genitals. The fact of Christ's sex, so obvious in the works under discussion, cannot be attributed simply to increasing pictorial naturalism among Renaissance artists, for it is not merely depicted as incidentally present, but as being presented. This theatrical showing, this literal ostentation, is of as great a theological significance as the ostentatio vulerum (showing of the wounds), as it served during the Renaissance as one of the primary pictorial vehicles for expressing the miracle of the incarnation, the divine occupation of human flesh.

Some art scholars have interpreted this as a symbol of Jesus' resurrection and continuing power after death. Others claim that the appearance of an erect penis during suffering and death is a negation of carnal pleasure, suggesting salvation through chastity.

Personally, we think the artists just wanted to draw some dicks. (See also: the Cerne Abbas Giant.)

Jesus Christ.

The Holy Inquisition was still a force to be reckoned with at this time, so most artists chose to subtly sneak this symbolism in. Amusingly, art historians have been playing Where's Waldo with Jesus' wanger ever since.

For example, some believe that Maarten van Heemskerck's 1532 painting Man of Sorrows shows a partially obscured erection, while others just see a bunched up loincloth. Perhaps it's a bit like a magic eye 3D painting - try using deep focus.


Today I Discovered is a daily dose of facts for Lifehacker readers - the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying. Most of the time, it's just mind-blowing. Let us know if you discovered anything that blew your mind in the comments!


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