A Hue and a Cry—-indeed!

Jessica will be our guide through this article, which I hope you found as illuminating as I did. Here are a few queries to begin the discussion:

1. How is rape generally treated by art historians? What is the “other” rape tradition?
2. What was the take-away lesson of the Levite’s wife for a medieval audience?
3. How was rape visually represented in medieval art?
4. Le plus ca change…..why is rape notoriously difficult to prove? Besides a hue and a cry, what other signs would a woman have to manifest?
5. When did woman as rape victim change into woman as seductress? How was this metamorphosis represented in art?
6. Did the moral outrage at contemporary cases of rape engender severe punishment of rapists? Why or why not?
7. On p. 51 the author states that the clergy in the 13th and 14th centuries were guilty of an extremely high percentage of rapes (especially in England). Discuss!
8. How does the image of women “regress” in the Renaissance depictions of Justice?
9. How did the Biblical figure of Jael epitomize this metamorphosis?
10. How can art history rectify this jaundiced view of heroic rape imagery?


3 responses

  1. 1) It is generally review in the “heroic” rape context which can be exemplified by the Rape of the Sabines. It is not regarded as problematic(by art historians or society) because the women are generally raped by gods or heroes and the consequences of rape is either not mentioned and when it is mentioned the victim does not suffer from anything.

  2. Wow to this entire article! How fitting, especially considering the unfortunate rise of rape culture in America, advocation of violence against women and enthusiastic victim blaming…

    Rape was gestured to in medieval art, signified by the assailant grabbing the victim’s wrist, her grieving expressions, torn clothes and disheveled hair–signs of a struggle (SHE must resist) and conventions from medieval law requiring physical evidence of assault.
    The story of the Levite’s wife demonstrated that rape was brutal, abhorrent, and intolerable, calling (ideologically) for punishment–though courtesy of the demands for presenting ripped clothes, touseled hair, and a clear outcry form the rape victim–a traumatized human being!–immediately following the assault (i.e. difficulty to garner proof) contributed to lack of actual cases…curious discrepancy…

    Did regional/national ideas of purity contribute to varying degrees of explicit content in the illuminations? Did custom in one country/kingdom allow for more graphic depiction of rape than others?

    I cannot even begin to express my horror at the surge of rape cases amongst CLERGY in medieval England! Why?! Did this time coincide with crusades (does wartime equal dehumanized viewpoints towards women in particular?) How was this rite of passage malarky justified–like some “excusable” frat house “drama” that dies down after exiting the headlines?!?

    Must it always go back to the woman doing whatever she can to diminish her person and the space she occupies because some “man” feels threatened? In the Renaissance, art and attitude towards rape moves from a critical viewpoint to romantic downplaying, from graphic to eroticized and sanitized depiction. Women cease to be human creatures valued for their virtues or at least empathized with and defended–they become the perpetrators of crime. AGAIN with the virtual castration, femme fatale, women are malicious mess…

  3. Scenes in art history often depict the rape of women. Though the most famous depictions of rape scenes come from the Renaissance, which are considered to be “heroic” rapes. These scenes largely depict kidnappings of women on canvas, and the women in these scenes are depicted resisting very little or not at all. This is partially because in the mythological texts that these artists are illustrating, almost all instances of sex are referred to as rape. The gods and heros rape women often in works like the Metamorphosis and the suffering and or point of view of the victim is never mentioned. Often rape was represented differently in Medieval art. Though sometimes the event is very clear like in the story of the Levite in figures 3 and 4, the suffering of the rape victim, and her husband are very clear. There is even a scene that shows the battle that comes after the rape, proving that rape has consequences for the victim’s family, but also for society as a whole. In more subtle ways rape was represented with one person grabbing the other person’s wrist. Grabbing someone’s wrist that the grabber was in control of the situation, and the grabbee had not consented to this.

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