Inspired by a question from one of my visitors I tried to dive into the history of cuckold art. A niche I am not familiar with, so please forgive me any false interpretations.
It was during the Renaissance, from the 16th to the 18th centuries, that Europe had a cultural obsession with cuckoldry. Back then, it was widely believed that women were more lustful than men, largely because they were subject to the whims of their “wandering womb”.
The womb, it was believed, could move independently around a woman’s body, causing her to lose control. Thus, if a man were married, his wife was obviously cheating on him. This infidelity would cause the poor husband to grow invisible horns, the ultimate symbol of cuckoldry, and the comic figure of the horned cuckold made its way into fictional songs, engravings, and theatre. It eventually became so ubiquitous as to give the impression of a “brotherhood of cuckoldry” wherein all wives were adulterous, and all husbands their hapless fools.
In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a play all about love, marriage, and deception, Benedick jokes about never getting married because it means instant cuckolding.
When browsing for art I found a lot of artworks with man wearing horns, I had no idea what the thought behind this must have been. I found some info, however this is not a certainty.
The basis of the word “cuckold” is found in the cuckoo, a bird which lays its eggs in other birds’ nests, forcing the unsuspecting bird to raise offspring which are not its own. Cuckoos, of course, don’t have horns.
Countless explanations have been offered for the link between horns and cuckoldry, such as in the 18th-century German print “Hanrey Begrabnusen” (“Cuckolds’ Graveyard”), which suggests a whole panoply of horned animals as the bestial source.
The ox (a castrated bull) alludes to the impotence of the wronged husband; while the stag suggests that the cuckolded husband has relinquished his status as a virile sexual pursuer and has become instead his wife’s “prey”.
Read more at this very interesting blog
Enjoy this special gallery with ancient artworks I found.