User:Jahsonic/AHE/France/Meanwhile in France: from Villon to Brantôme
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
So far, the history of eroticism was set mainly in Germany and Italy. France, which later becomes the undisputed center of all things erotic, has not been given attention. Visually, France fares poorly in comparison with its neighbors: no obscene engravings, few instances of eroticism in paint.
Noteworthy are the already shown painting by Jean Foucquet [page x] and the famous painting School of Fontainebleau painting Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters (image). Two young women sitting in a bathtub, one reaches with her fingers to gently and tenderly squeeze the nipple of the other woman. Both of us look like they are from another world. Reaching the nipple is said to result from a sign of Gabrielle d'Estrees pregnancy - not an early representation of lesbian love-: one sister teaching the other lessons in her future motherhood.
On literary level, France in the Renaissance is a treasure trove of early erotic texts. Already in the 12th century Breton writer Marie de France would pen an ode to the female genitals in the Lai du Lecheor.
- I swear on my faith,
- No woman has such a pretty face
- That if she would lose her cunt,
- Friend or lover for her yield. --tr.French Arthurian Literature: Eleven Old French Narrative Lays
The poem is a testimony to famous medieval anti-feminism and gives again a very cynical view of sexual relations. The Middle Ages are characterized by a world view in which women - both in practice and in literature - are seen as only a weak decoction of man. This is due to the fact that Eve burdened mankind with original sin. Everyone knows the story: Adam and Eve both live in paradise, they are naked, have no shame. After Eve, following the advice of a devilish serpent, lets Adam eat from the forbidden apple, they both become mortal and they are driven out of paradise. God condemns Eve to terrible pains during childbirth and to be eternally subdued to Adam.
Medieval man invokes Eve when he wants to show the inferiority of women. It is only fair to say that man often does not fare any better. While in literary circles, no mention is made of a medieval antimasculism, man is still very often portrayed as a simpleton. Since medieval writers are almost invariably men, this antimasculinist self-mockery deserves attention, which we unfortunately cannot give it now.
French literature of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance brings five authors, who each in their own way use eroticism - or at least the human body - to explore the boundaries of the impending literary era: François Villon (1431-ca. 1463), François Rabelais (1494-1553), Clement Marot (1496-1544), Theophile de Viau (1590-1626) and Brantôme (1540-1614).