Domitian, who was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers upon his brother Titus’ death, possessed the mental ability of the Flavian family, joined to the vices and cruelty of the Claudian. He surrounded himself with spies and informers, and put to death the noblest men of his time. Notorious for his cruelty, he is said to have invented a new method of torture which involved burning the sexual organs of his victims.
(b. 1620/21, Schiedam, d. 1673, Amsterdam)
View of a Harbour in Schiedam
Oil on canvas, 56 x 46 cm
PEETERS, Bonaventura the Elder
(b. 1614, Antwerpen, d. 1652, Hoboken)
Oil on oak, 60 x 85 cm
“Give the dice a fair throw and you will find shipwreck everywhere!”
Courtesan and Blind Cupid by Pietro Bertelli
(Flap print with liftable skirt)
Venice was famed for its legions of elaborately clad and coiffed courtesans. Foreign visitors marveled at their opulent jewels and abundant application of cosmetics, while civic authorities decried the courtesans’ deliberately misleading resemblance to “honest women.” Capitalizing on their titillating popularity, Pietro Bertelli published a series of prints of courtesans, each with a flap that lifted to reveal, below a seemingly innocent exterior, a glimpse of the carnal pleasures for which Venice was notorious. Here, the flap is the skirt, which can be raised to display the courtesan’s undergarments and chopines (the platform shoes that Venetian ladies wore to keep their feet dry).
As the Black Death spread throughout Europe, one extreme reaction was processions of Flagellants, religious fanatics who beat themselves in ritual penance, believing such action would bring divine intervention.
The German and Low Countries movement, the Brothers of the Cross, is particularly well documented; they wore white robes and marched across Germany in 33.5 day campaigns (each day referred to a year of Jesus’ earthly life) of penance, stopping in any one place for no more than a day. They established their camps in fields near towns and held their rituals twice a day. The ritual began with the reading of a letter, claimed to have been delivered by an angel and justifying the Flagellants’ activities. Next the followers would fall to their knees and scourge themselves, gesturing with their free hands to indicate their sin and striking themselves rhythmically to songs, known as Geisslerlieder, until blood flowed. Sometimes the blood was soaked up in rags and treated as a holy relic.
The terror the Flagellants created - and their dirty, bleeding bodies may have spread the disease - became so socially disruptive and threatening that the church finally outlawed such processions.