Category Archives: Nudity

1511: Belgians amuse themselves with pornographic snowmen

From New Year’s Eve 1510, the city of Brussels was frozen by more than six weeks of sub-zero temperatures and constant snow. In a city with high levels of poverty, this prolonged cold snap caused considerable human suffering, leading some to dub it the ‘Winter of Death’.

Those able to stay warm (and alive) made the most of things by engaging in a spontaneous snowman competition. All across Brussels, life-sized snowmen began to appear in parks, on street corners and outside private homes. One contemporary report suggests at least 50 clusters of snow figures could be observed in various places around the city.

By all accounts, most of these snowmen were cleverly sculpted and quite realistic; some may even have been created by prominent artists. Among the figures represented in snow were Jesus Christ, Adam and Eve and other Biblical figures, Roman deities, Saint George and the dragon, unicorns and several signs of the Zodiac.

In the city’s working-class areas, however, the majority of the snow figures were pornographic or scatological. Near the city fountain, a snow couple fornicated while another snow figure watched with a visible erection. A number of snow women, ranging from nuns to prostitutes, appeared in various states of undress. Near the city market, a snow boy urinated into the mouth of another. A snow cow could be seen, halfway through defecation, while a snow drunk lay amongst his own snowy excrement.

The poet Jan Smeken, who penned the best-known account of the Belgian snow figures, described one scene of implied bestiality:

“In the Rosendal, a wonder was to be seen: a huge plump woman, completely naked, her buttocks like a barrel and her breasts finely formed. A dog was ensconced between her legs, her pudenda covered by a rose…”

The snowmen of Brussels lasted for about six weeks, until the return of warmer weather in mid-February.

Source: Jan Smeken, The Pure Wonder of Ice and Snow, 1511. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1896: George Bush in court for his “mania for nudity”

In the summer of 1896, George Bush appeared in a London court charged with running around stark naked. He was found scaling a wall in Whitman Road, Bow, in the nude. Bush had only been released from prison hours before, after serving a month for streaking through a first-class railway carriage.

The constables who arrested Bush were alerted to his antics by local children, who had been frightened by a “white ghost”:

“[The] prisoner said ‘It’s been rather hot today and they are after me. I threw my clothes into the Cut. I was only liberated [from prison] this morning.’ Constable JR said that doctors who had examined Bush certified they could find no trace of insanity. The present [charge] made the eighth time he had been charged with being in a state of nudity in railway carriages or public streets… Altogether there were 18 former convictions against the prisoner.”

The magistrate condemned the prisoner for his “mania for nudity”. He was ordered to pay a combined surety of 20 pounds or spend another month in prison.

Source: Reynold’s Newspaper, London, August 23rd 1896. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1763: Coachman bares buttocks at disgusted theatre-goers

In January 1763, a French aristocrat named Christophe-Louis Pajot de Villers hosted a private showing of a Rousseau opera in the ballroom of his Paris home. It was attended by more than 30 minor royals, aristocrats and wealthy members of the bourgeoisie.

The performance concluded at around 10pm and guests prepared to leave. Behind the curtain, de Villers’ coachman, Nicolas Dandeli, mounted the stage, shouted “Tiens, la voila la comedie!” (Hey, here’s a funny show!) and offered a parting gesture:

“The coachman… decided to undo his trousers and turn his back to the curtain, with the intention of displaying his bare rump to those who were still in the room. At this point, Capolin, a negro aged 13 years, raised the curtain so that those remaining in the hall saw the nude posterior of the coachman, who was bent over in such a way that his rear end stuck out towards the audience. He even slapped his backside loudly with his hands to call attention to himself. As a result, all of those still in the room saw, much to their astonishment, an act of tremendous impudence, which so greatly revolted them that they left the room immediately, complaining of the terrible scandal.”

The outraged de Villers immediately summoned the commissioners, who dragged Dandeli off to prison. He remained there for several days while the commissioners took a series of depositions. He was released after de Villers – apparently unable to tolerate not having a coachman – withdrew his complaint.

Source: Archives Nationales Y13772, January 22nd 1763, cited in Campardon, Les Spectacles de la Foire, 1877. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1478: Waiting crowd shown the newborn prince and his testicles

Philip, the future king of Castile, was born on June 22nd 1478. The following day, Margaret of York, the child’s godmother, carried baby Philip into the market square in Bruges where a large crowd had gathered. According to a Flemish chronicler, Margaret proudly stripped the baby and showed him to the crowd:

“…She took his testicles in her hands and spoke: ‘Children, see here your newborn lord Philip, from the emperor’s side’. The crowd, seeing that it was a son, was overwhelmingly happy, thanking and praising our beloved God that he had granted them a young prince.”

Margaret’s display was a response to rumours, circulated by agents of French king Louis XI, that baby Philip was actually a girl.

Philip became King of Castile shortly before his 28th birthday but died suddenly just three months later. His obsessive and unstable wife Joanna, who at the time of Philip’s death was pregnant with their sixth child, became even more erratic. She refused to surrender Philip’s body for burial, keeping it in her apartments for several months. According to some chroniclers, she sometimes opened Philip’s casket to kiss and stroke his corpse.

Source: Cited in W. Appe Alberts, Dit sijn die wonderlijke oorloghen van den doorluchtigen hoochgheboren prince, &tc., 1978. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1690: Oxford student sues for chicken-carving slur

In 1690, the chancellor’s court at Oxford University heard a defamation dispute between two Exeter College students: John Colmer and John Crabbe. According to the plaintiff Colmer and his witnesses, Crabbe had been telling malicious and dishonest stories about Colmer for several weeks.

Colmer produced witnesses to support his claims, including the respected scholar and future Bishop of Peterborough, White Kennett. According to their testimony, most of Crabbe’s “slanderous tales” told of Colmer’s alleged promiscuity and “brutish lust”. One story spread by Crabbe was that Colmer had been present at:

“…a supper with the Earl of Warwick [where] he represented to his Lordship the obscene parts of a woman, by the cutting of such a figure from the flesh of a roasted fowl.”

Crabbe also produced witnesses in his defence, though most were exposed as homeless prostitutes. Unsurprisingly, the chancellor’s court ruled in Colmer’s favour.

Source: Oxford University archives, Chancellor’s Court papers, folio 56, 1690.