Nudity was conspicuous in Renaissance Jewish books by Menachem Wecker

I still remember what David Quammen, the director of the D.C. Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgetown, told me back in the summer of 2006, when I interviewed him about an exhibit of erotic art for NY Arts magazine. 

“If some people had their way, we’d be all bundled up with only our noses sticking out,” he said. Then, pausing for a minute, he decided that even that wouldn’t fly for some folks. “They might see the noses as too similar to penises,” he concluded.

The illustrations on the title page of a book of religious responsa (titled Shailoth U’Teshuvoth, literally “questions and answers”) by the rabbi Asher Ben Yechiel (1250 or 1259 – 1327) aren’t nearly as pornographic as the works in Quammen’s 2006 exhibit. But the 1607 book, which is lot 303 in the upcoming auction at Kestenbaum & Co. in New York, may surprise some readers.

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