Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Why Henry VIII’s Codpiece Is So Monumental in Holbein’s Famous, Lost Portrait


During the 15th and 16th centuries, fashionable men sported a codpiece. Originally a garment designed to protect and support the proverbial “Willy” (especially when men wore tights), the codpiece morphed into something else–a sign of virility, “a bulging and absurd representation of masculinity itself.” The codpiece featured prominently in paintings by masters such as Titian, Giorgione, Bruegel and Holbein. Above, Evan Puschak (aka the Nerdwriter) introduces you to Holbein’s famous portrait of Henry VIII, “the poster boy for codpieces.”

For a deeper dive into the subject, you can read the New Yorker piece “A Brief History of the Codpiece, the Personal Protection for Renaissance Equipment.” And to go still deeper, see Michael Glover’s entire book dedicated to the subject, Thrust: A Spasmodic Pictorial History of the Codpiece in Art.

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