Tuesday, February 17, 2009


1. Sint-Michielskerk, Gent, Belgium - 13th century
2. Old townhall, Mechelen, Belgium - late 14th century
3. Village church, Eine, Belgium - 13th century
4. Village church, Eine, Belgium - 13th century

Does someone have a clue what these figures with bits in their mouths stand for? In the case of the male heads I can imagine it might have to do something with the legend of Aristoteles and Phyllis (see also fig. 2).

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and tutor of Alexander the Great, allowed himself to be humiliated by the seductive Phyllis, Alexander's favorite courtesan, as a lesson to the young ruler, who had succumbed to her wiles and neglected the affairs of state. Encouraging Alexander to witness his folly, Aristotle explained that if he, an old man, could be so easily deceived, the potential consequences for a young man were even more perilous.
Source here.

However, I can not see why women would also be depicted this way and what the meaning is that is hidden behind it.
Any information on this matter would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you.


Edyth Miller said...

The three images are interpretations of the Disgorging Head- a form of Green Man. They appear in architectural scultpure throughout many cultures, but no one seems to know their exact meaning. The Green Man has been interpreted as a symbol of resurection, vitality, fertility, and Christ.

The fourth image, that of the woman riding the man, is a probably a satirical image referencing a woman's rule over a man in private. The item in his mouth is a rein.

There's more to be found out about both images by looking into "marginal art".

Hope that helps!


Isis said...

Thank you for the information!

Laura said...

I've also seen the leafy heads referred to as "foliate heads."

Wikipedia has a nice overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Man

Anonymous said...

hi Isis,

ken je het boek; Young Medieval Women?
Hierin staat een artikel dat heet: A positive Representation of the power of young women: the malterer Embroidery re-examined by Kristina E Gourtlay?

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