Edited By Chris Mounsey and Stan Booth
Improper Conjunctions: Scandalous Images and Dangerous Bodies in ‘Crim. Con. Temptations with Prices Affix’d’
The essay examines variations of a satirical print, ‘Crim. Con. Temptations with Prices Affix’d’, to a late century debate about legal treatment of adulterous liaisons, one that depends upon the legal fiction (a ‘queer’ conjunction between law and the fictive) that a wife is the property of her husband rather than a desiring body. Women are innately troubling because as both subjects of law (covered by their husbands and fathers) and as property that can be contested at law, they drag the object-physical status of the body into courts of law. This image exemplifies the value of visual imagery for exploring how human variability made visible and significant. However difficult to engage, caricature, because it discovers what is unique about someone’s face, posture, or physique and exaggerating it to produce a recognizable and mocking image, attends carefully to (and perhaps even creates) signifying cultural markers that undercut both a classical ideal and a modern ‘normal’.
In The Power of Images David Freedberg reminds readers of something about images that academics (or at least art historians) often prefer to elide:
People are sexually aroused by pictures and sculptures; they break pictures and sculptures; they mutilate them, kiss them, cry before them, and go on journeys to see them; they are calmed by them, stirred by them, and incited to revolt. They give thanks by ← 147 | 148 → means of them, expect to be elevated by them, and are moved...
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