Jul 29, 2015

Codpieces: the Renaissance Bulge

Men often try to draw attention to the size of their sex organs.  Athletic supporters -- ostensibly to keep them from flopping around, but also serving the function of creating an eye-catching bulge.

Football players' cups -- for protection, and to enhance their erotic appeal?

During the Renaissance, they wore codpieces ("cod" is the Old English word for scrotum).

Originally the codpiece was simply a triangular piece of cloth placed over the sex organs.  By the 1520s, it was getting cotton enhancments to better accentuate the basket.

During the codpiece craze of the mid-16th century, men tried to outdo each other with the biggest, boldest, most elaborate designs.

This is Don Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568), painted by Alonzo Coello.  Did he really walk around like that?

Guidobaldo II, Duke of Urbino (1514-1574), painted by Agnolo Bronzino, wears a huge ball-shaped codpiece.  I don't think his sex organs would really fit in there.

The codpiece was out of fashion by the time of Shakespeare, but fortunately, most modern directors don't know that, and push their actors into them anyway.

Today you can sometimes see codpieces at Renaissance Faires.    But not often. Modern men feel too exposed wearing them.