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elbanditoroso's avatar

[Probably NSFW] Ancient Greek and Roman statuary, depictions of men?

Asked by elbanditoroso (15948 points ) December 12th, 2013

Most Roman statues of men tended to have the men wearing togas or capes or armor. There are some Roman male nude statues, of course.

Greek statuary generally depicted more nude (i.e. unrobed) males as a percentage, although of course there are quite a number of statues showing robed men as well.

As far as I can find, both Roman and Greek statues of men showed flaccidity, not tumescence.

Art history majors: is there any evidence of statues showing erections, or was that simply “not done” by ancient sculptors? Or were such statues made, but then destroyed by various censorious religions groups over the millenia?

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11 Answers

janbb's avatar

Good question. I don’t really know but since most of the nude statues are of men standing and not engaged in erotic acts, I would assume that flaccidity was the artistic norm. I have never read of widespread destruction of Greek art.

filmfann's avatar

As I recall from my art class (about 40 years ago), there were such statues, but they were destroyed by the occasional wave of super-morality that will sweep by.
If you see a statue where the penis has been removed, it is possible that was one.

Seek's avatar

@filmfann is probably right. I would say most likely right, as looking at Greek pottery shows a great, shall we say… appreciation? for the erotic in many forms, including erections and use of dildos

If you want rock-hard erections in art, though, look to the Celts. Let’s just say the “horned god” had more than a pair of antlers.

flutherother's avatar

Roman statuary may not have shown erections but erect penises were everywhere in Roman society to an extent that we find bizarre

janbb's avatar

I think we’d have to know more than we do about what statues were created by and for as opposed to other kinds of art. I did Google too and saw other erotic art but not erect statues. However, as I said, we (or at least I) do know what the purpose of various art forms was. If there were erect statues that were destroyed, then why not erect erotic pottery? I know in medieval churches, some of the less prominent works such as capitols, gargoyles and bench supports were much more free in style because they were done by minor craftspeople.

Seek's avatar

From Wiki:

One of the first objects excavated when the complex was discovered was a marble statue showing the god Pan having sex with a goat, a detailed depiction of bestiality considered so obscene that it was not on public display until the year 2000 and remains in the Secret Museum, Naples.

janbb's avatar

Cool stuff and nice research @Seek_Kolinahr !

muppetish's avatar

There is an important distinction in art between being nude (the human form) and being naked (lacking clothing in an erotic context.) The nude Greek statues were not naked. They revered the human form and a sculptor who could capture the muscular arms and sinuous curves were celebrated.

There was plenty of naked, erotic artwork, but it was not found in the temples that we have excavated many of the well known pieces. They found a shit-ton of it in Pompeii when excavating the lost city. Fascinating stuff and certainly not with a lack of erections—sculpted and painted.

Wish I had finished that minor in Art History now..

janbb's avatar

@muppetish That was the distinction I was trying to elucidate. You made it clearer.

marinelife's avatar

In classical times, in general small genitalia were considered aesthetically the best. There are some diversions from this. In a Pompeiaan fresco, there is this depiction of Priapus.

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