Some years back in these pages in a post he titled The Ecstasy of Saint Beauty, Dr. Faustus presented a series of examples of Christian religious art in which the eroticism of pain is so shallowly sublimated it might even be said to be celebrated. I’ve got another example for you, I think.

First, have a look at this drawing by Faucher-Godin of “a picture on the tomb of Khiti at Beni-Hasan” in Egypt, which is said by many sources to depict an aggressive tax collection practice:


If there’s a hint of eroticism in this bit of Egyptian figural drawing, I lack the art-historical training to detect it. The figures strike me as both minimalist and distorted, although they are surely graceful.

What happens when an unknown and uncredited engraver in 1844 decided that this Egyptian artwork would make a fine template for a Christian work of religious history, depicting the beating of Hebrew people in bondage to the Egyptians? In The Pictorial History of Palestine and the Holy Land Including a Complete History of the Jews we see the result. This artist surely did not stint at sexing things up:


Detecting the eroticism in this version I leave as an exercise for the student. (Surely even the most blind will not fail to appreciate the addition of a wad of fabric underneath the victim, so that those newly-muscular buttocks are upthrust for the convenience of the man with the big cudgel.)

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