'Effigies amicitiae...veritas inimicitiae': Antifeminism in the Iconography of the Woman-Headed Serpent in Medieval and Renaissance Art and Literature

Nona C. Flores

in Nona C. Flores, ed., Animals in the Middle Ages: A Book of Essays, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996, 167-195

"In this essay I will examine the use of the Edenic dracontopede in a small number of the many extant examples available in medieval and Renaissance art and literature. My interest is an iconographic one: I have tried to elicit the significance of an image that is largely unsupported by authority but that was developed so creatively by artists and writers for over 400 years. I have further limited my focus to the dracontopede of Genesis 3 and analogous biform creatures associated with this figure. Thus I do not discuss the woman-serpents of folklore and romance; though fascinating, these come from a tradition separate from Christian patristics. Finally, I have chosen examples in which the depiction of the woman-headed snake underlines the sins ascribed to Eve at the fall -- primarily lust, pride, and fraud -- all of which provided a basis for centuries of antifeminist moralizing." - Flores

Language: English


Last update December 6, 2021