About this artwork
The medical term priapism is derived from the name of the minor fertility god Priapus, whose permanently erect phallus is carefully washed in this sacrificial scene. Jacopo de’ Barbari also produced a larger engraving (1935.102 and 1956.999) in which the god’s phallus is obscured by smoke. The ceremonies depicted in these prints would have been intended to enhance the women’s fertility and their sons’ virility. The winged staff of Hermes doubles as the artist’s monogram in both prints; its placement on Priapus’s plinth may refer to the practice of erecting guideposts with Hermes’ portrait near roads to help lost travelers. Like the statue in this work, these pillars would have included sculpted, protruding genitalia, as in the Master of 1515’s engraving of Cleopatra (1951.374).
- Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- Jacopo de' Barbari
- Sacrifice to Priapus, the smaller plate
- Engraving on ivory laid paper
- 97 × 108 mm
- Bequest of Mrs. Potter Palmer, Jr.