[Fucking] Art History: The Ecstasy of St Teresa

This post was originally featured on a former iteration of this site on January 9th, 2015. It has been reposted here for posterity. 

[Fucking] Art History is a series of posts with two images- one, a piece of artwork from somewhere in history, and the other, a sex toy of some kind. They are placed at odds both to challenge the idea that sex toys are not art, as well as to draw links between modern day creations with those of history. These lines will be drawn with color, shape, aesthetic, material, or other similarities. 

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.
— Teresa of Avila, in her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus

Saint Teresa of Avila was a nun and the co-founder of the Discalced, or Barefoot, Carmelites- a reform of the Carmelite Order, which had moved away from it’s original dedication to a hermetic life of prayer. This concept was reclaimed by the Discalced Carmelites, who maintained an impoverished and solitary life of prayer and contemplation.

Saint Teresa passed away in 1582 at the age of 67, and was canonized forty years later, in 1622. Not long after in 1647, Gian Lorenzo Bernini was commissioned by Cardinal Federico Cornaro to design and sculpt his burial chapel, in Santa Maria Della Vittoria, a Church of the Discalced Carmelites. The chapel previously held an image of St. Paul in Ecstasy, and it seemed only fitting to depict the ecstasy of one of the co-founders of the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Although it is unlikely that Bernini intended to imbue eroticism in the sculpture, many have found the spiritual rapture displayed by the saint to be sexually suggestive. The saint is shown sitting half up, as though aroused from sleep, with her head thrown back and mouth agape as an gently smiling angel pulls her robes to the side and holds an arrow, poised to pierce her flesh. Whether or not the intention was erotic, it is understandable that some would interpret it in such a way.

The Ecstasy is not the only marble statue from this period that people find to be erotic. The lifelike realism of Classical Greek and Renaissance marble statues has tempted and taunted people for centuries and inspired the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with one of his sculptures. Thankfully for Pygmalion, Aphrodite brought his love to life- but we aren’t all that lucky.

The item on the right, however, we can be sure is erotic in nature. The Cold Mistress, from newcomer Sen Kouros, has been artfully crafted from the same materials utilized by the Greeks and great Rennaisance artists. Sen Kouros has been attempting to crowd fund their endeavor, and though I generally do not support crowd-funded sex toys, I am wholly behind these marble beauties. They only have a few days left- you can learn more on their site.