Rape in Romanesque Art Essay

Rape in Romanesque Art Essay

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The Rape of Ganymede capital in San Madeleine in Vézelay is a depiction of the story of the rape or abduction of Ganymede. On its front face the capital features an eagle holding the young shepherd boy, Ganymede, in its mouth. Ganymede is being held upside down helplessly with a look of terror on his face. On the left are two adults holding their heads and staring helplessly at the eagle taking the boy. On the right side is a demon looking out at the viewer sticking its tongue out in happiness, as if to taunt us. In the eagle’s talons is a dog, which looks like a hyena, baring its teeth.
The capital depicts a story from Aeniad, where Jupiter becomes infatuated with the handsome shepherd boy, Ganymede, and according to his version of the story, sends an eagle down to abduct the boy. Ganymede then serves as Jupiter’s cupbearer, and this evokes jealousy from Juno, thus incurring her wrath which is supposedly one of the factors that begins the Trojan War. Virgil’s version of the story is similar, but includes the visual element of the barking dog and the guardians on the side, unable to aid the boy. Both story versions come from Antiquity.
As I began analyzing this capital, it took me a while to get a grasp on what was going on. There is a lot of content crammed into a small space on this capital. All the figures are oversized and in extremely close proximity to one another. I noticed the caricature-like portrayal of the figures. This seems to be the case in all the capitals at Vézelay. I was particularly interested in the facial expressions. The face of Ganymede is filled with dear and confusion as he hangs upside down. The dog looks frightening and angry, but it is unclear to me if he is sided with Jupiter’s eagle or if he is...


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... Meaning on a Capital Representing the Fall of
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Forsyth, Ilene H. “The Ganymede Capital at Vézelay.” Gesta 15, No. 1/2. Essays in Honor of Sumner
McKnight Crosby. (1976): 241-246.
Kolve, V. A. “Ganymede/Son of Getron: Medieval Monasticism and the Drama of Same-Sex Desire.”
Speculum 73, No. 4 (1998): 1014-1067.
Mills, Robert. “Gender, Sodomy, Friendship, and the Medieval Anchorhold.” Journal of Medieval
Religious Cultures 36, No. 1 (2010): 1-27.
Quinn, Patricia A. Better Than the Sons of Kings: Boys and Monks in the Early Middle Ages. (New York,
1988)
Van Buren, Anne H. Review of Ganymed: Studien zur Typologie, Ikonographie und Ikonologie by Gerda
Kempter. Speculum 57, No. 3 (1982): 624-625.
Wolfthal, Diane. “ ‘A Hue and a Cry’: Medieval Rape Imagery and Its Transformation.” The Art Bulletin
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