Marcantonio Raimondi, The Judgement of Paris

Marcantonio Raimondi created an engraving that personifies lust, sexuality, and forms a fantasy for the viewer. The Judgment of Paris (Figure 1), created around 1516, includes nude female and male figures to depict an erotic and highly sensual interaction between Paris and Venus. According to David Lang Clark, the left hand of Venus is not only covering her vagina, her fingers are curled and into her body, suggesting self-pleasuring. “Far more suggestive of masturbation, though, is the left hand of Paris: his fingers curl around the inverted and phallic shepherd’s crook which he pulls into his crotch with his left foot.”[1] By using the “phallic crook,” the artist depicts Paris in the act of masturbation while looking at Venus. The act of masturbation by Paris creates a fantasy that the male viewer wants to fulfill. Just as Paris is pleasuring himself in front of Venus, Franco’s clients would pleasure themselves to her poetry and letters. The sensual lyrics Franco writes to her clients are used to pleasure their intended audience; only she is not the sole writer using words to depict a sexual yearning. In a letter to Franco written by Marco Vernier, he fantasizes about his sexual relationship with her. “When you lie stretched out upon the pillows, how sweet to fall upon you! and in that way strip you of any retreat or defense!”[2] It is with this excerpt that we can understand that even in her absence, Franco has an allure in which her customers fantasize about her touch until the next time they meet. Just as Paris fantasizing over Venus, Venier fantasizes about Franco. In the Judgment of Paris, Raimondi is able to take the influence of Venetian courtesans and relate to his audience by referencing a sexual fantasy.

Raimondi, Marcantonio.  The Judgement of Paris. Engraving. 1516.

Raimondi, Marcantonio. The Judgement of Paris. Engraving. 1516.

[1] Clark, 3.

[2] Marco Venier. “Capitolo 1.” in Veronica Franco: Poems and Selected Letters, 57.

Next: Fantasy in Titian’s Venus of Urbino

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