Open Access

Roman Charity

Queer Lactations in Early Modern Visual Culture

Jutta Gisela Sperling

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Jutta Gisela Sperling, Roman Charity (2016), transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, ISBN: 9783839432846

Getrackt seit 05/2018


Beschreibung / Abstract

»Roman Charity« investigates the iconography of the breastfeeding daughter from the perspective of queer sexuality and erotic maternity. The volume explores the popularity of a topic that appealed to early modern observers for its eroticizing shock value, its ironic take on the concept of Catholic »charity«, and its implied critique of patriarchal power structures. It analyses why early modern viewers found an incestuous, adult breastfeeding scene »good to think with« and aims at expanding and queering our notions of early modern sexuality. Jutta Gisela Sperling discusses the different visual contexts in which »Roman Charity« flourished and reconstructs contemporary horizons of expectation by reference to literary sources, medical practice, and legal culture.


Jutta Gisela Sperling (PhD) teaches early modern history at Hampshire College, MA. Her research interests include convent studies, comparative legal studies in the Mediterranean, and early modern lactation imagery.


»Sperling's book is a useful addition to scholarly conversations in several fields and disciplines - art history and early modern gender studies in particular. Though not a text for an introductory course, it provides more advanced students and researchers with thoughtful and creative tools for analyzing the transmission of images through time as well as about the ways in which we engage the meaning and reception of those images.«
Peter Carlson, Comitatus, 48 (2017)


Open Access Angabe

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)


  • Cover
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Breastfeeding Pero: Sign of Desire, Transgression, and Dionysian Excess (1525–50)
  • Chapter 2. The Caravaggesque Moment: Roman Charity as Figure of Dissent
  • Chapter 3. Poussin’s and Rubens’s Long Shadows: Roman Charity, French History Painting, and the Hybridization of Genres
  • Chapter 4. The Literary Tradition: Erotic Insinuations, Irony, and Ekphrasis
  • Chapter 5. Adult Breastfeeding as Cure: Queer Lactations in Medical Discourse
  • Chapter 6. Charity, Mother of Allegory: Breastfeeding as “Other Speech”
  • Chapter 7. Patriarchy and Its Discontents: Father-Daughter Relations and the Emergence of Absolutism
  • List of Figures
  • Table: Caravaggisti, Caravaggeschi, and Their Iconographical Choices
  • Works Cited
  • Index of Artists

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