Yes, there are indeed images of female saints having their breasts cut off. I'm not an art
historian, but from my limited knowledge of such things, I'd say that these are the favourite
images of such martyrs. They seem quite keen on nudity, too. I think there's a
distinction between single images of a saint, for which you want a clear identifying emblem,
and cartoon-strip style depictions of their whole lives, in which you get as many torture
images as anyone could wish for. For more information, see Martha E Easton, "St Agatha
and the Sanctification of Sexual Violence," Studies in Iconography 16 1994 83-118. Martha
is one of a number of people currently working on images of martyrdom. If Sam Riches is
still lurking on this list, she can give better information on recent work in this area, including
On Fri, 27 Aug 1999 11:55:22 -0400 Margaret Cormack wrote:
> From: Margaret Cormack <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 11:55:22 -0400
> Subject: Body Parts
> To: [log in to unmask]
> learned listmembers,
> the following query is probably directed primarily to art historians, but
> others may have insight and suggestions as well.
> I am trying to find out about the "visibility" of body parts (relics or
> depictions in art) at various times in the Middle Ages. It is my
> understanding that early reliquaries were beautiful jewelled containers,
> which might at most indicate the nature of the relic contained (they might
> be shaped like a head, arm, etc.) but which carefully concealed it, unless
> one were lucky enough to be present on those rare occasions when the shrine
> was opened. The ? 15th ? century, however, saw the development of
> reliquaries with crystal insets which allowed one to actually view the
> tooth, blood, hair, or whatever contained in the reliquary.
> Further, statues and painting of the saints would usually (as discussed in
> a few recent postings) depict the saint, fully dressed, with an emblem of
> his martyrdom. A statue of St. Lawrence, for example, takes the form of a
> young man dressed as a deacon, carrying a gridiron. Catherine is shown with
> her wheel, Barbara with her tower, etc.
> When do we start finding images of St. Lawrence actually being roasted, of
> St. Erasmus having his guts wound out, etc?
> What about the female saints who carry, not the instruments of torture, but
> the mutilated body parts - St. Lucy her eyes, St. Agatha (?) her breasts?
> Do we ever find images of St. Agatha (if she is the right one) having her
> breasts cut off? I suspect that female nudity (or partial nudity) is less
> common than that of males. Has anyone written on this topic? How do
> portrayals of the bodies of saints (or other bodies) this relate to
> crucifixions or other portrayals of Christ?