Ancient images can stimulate immoral behaviour
Year mention: 1617
Dana ; Jupiter ; Pagan Gods
Sacred vs. profane imagery

Pagan images can lead to immoral behaviour because people can imitate the ancient gods

Molanus, Johannes
Jan Gossaert, named Mabuse - Danae, 1527
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek, München,

Molanus condemns pagan images, like that of Jupiter and Danae, because people can imitate their immoral behaviour.

“But it is deservedly added to the lustful pictures, as sacrilegious as it is fabulous, as St. Augustine writes in Book 2 of the City of God. ‘In Terence’, he says, ‘a flagitious young man looks at a painted tablet, on which the story of how Jupiter sent golden rain into the lap of Danae was depicted.’ and he uses this great authority as a defence of his misbehaviour when he boasts that he is imitating God. ‘But what god? One that shakes the temples of heaven with loud noises. As a mere man how could I do otherwise? In fact, I’ve done the same, and enjoyed it”. Accordingly, in the Confessions, the same teacher exclaims against those who, by their teachings, inspire such things in the youth. ‘O river of hell! let the children of men be cast upon thee with wages, that they may learn these things.'”

“Libidinosis vero picturis merito adiicitur et ea, sacrilega simula ac fabulosa, de qua sanctus Augustinus scribit libro secundo de Civitate Dei. Apud Terentium, inquit flagitiosus adolescens spectat.’Tabulam quandam pictam, ubi inerat pictura haec, Iovem Quopacto Danae misisse aiunt quondam in gremium imbrem aureum.’ atque ab hac tanta authoritate adhibec patrocinium turpitudini suae, cum in ea iactat se imitari Deum, ‘At quem Deum? Qui templa coeli summa sonitu concutit. Ego homuncio non facerem? Ego vero illud feci ac lubens.’ Merito itaque in Confessionibus idem doctor exclamat contra eos qui eiusmodi iuventuti praelegendo instillant. O flume tartareum! iactantur in te filii hominum cum mercedibus ut haec discant.” 

Date mention

Historical Location

Iconclass Number

Molanus, De historia sanctarum imaginum et picturarum (1617), book 2, ch. 42, 150

David Freedberg, “Johannes Molanus on Provocative Paintings. De Historia Sanctarum Imaginum et
Picturarum, Book II, Chapter 42″, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1971, Vol. 34 (1971), pp. 229-

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