Ostentatio genitalium (the display of the genitals) refers to disparate traditions in Renaissance visual culture of attributing formal, thematic, and theological significance to the penis of Jesus. That these images seem to have been created in good faith, with pious intentions, mystifies art historians, and many refuse to recognize the category as noteworthy or distinct from the nudity of angels and putti. Yet, as examples accrue, the conspicuous attention lent to Christ’s phallus cannot escape even the most disinterested gaze. “It is no exaggeration to say that this has probably been the most taboo topic in Christian thought for two thousand years”, writes Stephen Sapp. In contrast to classical sculptural conventions, which — with exceptions like certain herma and statues of satyrs — often showcase male genitalia in a state of flaccid modesty (akin to Michelangelo’s Risen Christ), these Renaissance images shock us because they are so frequently ithyphallic: Christ has risen, but not in the way we have come to expect.
Source: Ostentatio Genitalium in Renaissance Art – The Public Domain Review