• Apotropaic Humor: The Fresco of Priapus in the House of the Vettii

    Author(s):
    Thomas R. Blanton IV (see profile)
    Date:
    2022
    Subject(s):
    Art, Roman, Romans--Religion, Greeks--Religion, Art, Greek, Religion, Art and religion, Priapus (Greek deity), Italy--Pompeii (Extinct city), House of the Vettii (Pompeii), Gender identity
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    gender
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/neqj-dh06
    Abstract:
    A fresco at the entrance of the House of the Vettii in Pompeii that depicts the god Priapus weighing his semiturgid phallus against a bag of coins has plausibly been interpreted as an apotropaic image, protecting the domus against the baneful influence of the evil eye. This article points to humorous elements of the fresco that have been largely overlooked in previous scholarship and suggests that these elements were understood to enhance the apotropaic effectiveness of the image. Humorous elements in the fresco discussed include artistic disproportionality (i.e., the grossly enlarged phallus), the use of inversion (a semiturgid rather than fully erect phallus), partial gender reversal (Priapus is dressed in matronly garb), and the transformation of the function of Priapus’s member from penality to mensuration.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    5 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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