Aretino's Postures

Pietro Aretino and his Sixteen Postures, 1524

The career break of Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) came when he wrote a mock last will and testament in 1516 for Pope Leo X's pet elephant, Hanno, complete with bequeathing the beast's genitals to one of the lustier cardinals. From then on, he became infamous in Italy as one of the lewdest and wittiest writers, the Renaissance mouth that roared.

In 1524, Aretino wrote sonnets to accompany the drawings of sixteen sexual positions by Giuliano Romano, Raphael's talented twenty-five-year-old pupil. Their collaboration produced one of history's most notorious works of erotic art.

Casanova in his memoirs mentions spending New Year's Eve 1753 with a nun doing Aretino's "straight tree" position, which he says featured the man standing and holding the woman upside-down for mutual oral sex.

Aretino barely escaped prison for his involvement in the Sixteen Postures, but it certainly didn't teach him to mend his ways.

~ from History Laid Bare, by Richard Zachs


original raimondi 1524

The image on the right by Giulio Romano (engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi) is supposed to be the only surviving image from the original "I MODI" collection. And so the images that follow are ones that directly take after the lost engravings. Since they first appeared in 1524 many artists have sought to recapture the classic decadence of the originals, and the images that follow are a choice sampling.

Aretino's "Sonnetti Lussuriosi" were composed after he first viewed Giulio Romano's drawings, and were later compiled into a printed edition with Raimondi's splendid engravings. All except a very few copies of this book were promptly burned by the Church. No surviving complete copy is known to exist.





counterfeit woodcut inspired
by raimondi engraving 1527

My legs are wrapped around you neck,
    Your cazzo's in my cul, in pushes and thrashes!
    I was in bed, but now I'm on this chest.
    What extreme pleasure you're giving me!
But lift me onto the bed again: down here,
    My head hung low, you'll do me in.
    The pain's worse than birth-pangs or shitting.
    Cruel love, what have you reduced me to?
    What are you going to do?
    Whatever you like.
    Give me your tongue a little, darling.
    Reward who served you silently and well.
The potta will want its share of pleasure,
    Otherwise potta and cul will stay at war.
    Push harder, your cazzo's slipping out.
           If I had had to wait
One minute longer for release,
I swear I would have died, sweetheart.






agostino carracci,
late 16th century

I want this cazzo, not a treasure,
   This is what can make one happy.
   This cazzo would suit an Empress.
   This jewel's worth more than a goldmine.
Woe is me, help me, cazzo, I'm dying,
   May your lust reach to my very gut!
   Truly, to deal properly with a potta
   A little cazzo is hardly suitable.
Milady, those are truthful words:
   Whoever has a small cazzo and dares
   To fottere in the potta deserves icy enemas.
The poorly endowed should always use the culo,
   But those like me blessed with ruthless organs
   Should thrash continually around in potte.
         Agreed, yet since it keeps us jaunty,
Women lust greedily for cazzi:
We'd take that spire in front and in the back.






agostino carracci,
late 16th century

Open your thighs so I can look straight
   At your beautiful culo and potta before my face
   Paradisiacal culo to be enjoyed,
   Potta that melts hearts through the kidneys.
While I contemplate these things,
   Suddenly I desire to kiss you, and I seem
   To myself more handsome than Narcissus
   In the morror that keeps my cazzo erect.
Ah, shameless pair! I spy you
   On that mattress pulled down to the floor.
   You whore, you'd better defend yourself.
   I'm going to break a rib or two!
Shit on you, syphilis-ridden hag!
   In order to enjoy this superb pleasure
   I'd throw myself into a well.
         I'm greedier
For a noble cazzo than bees are for flowers.
Even just looking at it tickles me.






agostino carracci,
late 16th century

You little prick! Don't keep pulling the cart.
   Cupid, you bastard, stop it!
   I want to fottere her in the potta not the culo.
   she lets the cazzo slip and makes me laugh.
Forced to lean on my arms and legs,
   O curse you for this clumsy position.
   A mule would conk over after an hour of it.
   That's why you hear me farting thunderously.
As for you, Beatrice, if you're uncomfortable,
   Forgive me. You ought to be able to tell
   How this crazy posture is killing me.
If I didn't mirror myself in your ass,
   Lifted up, as I am, on both my arms,
   We'd never get to the end of this act.
         O milky, rosy culo,
If I didn't gaze voluptuously at you,
My cazzo would hardly stand up straight.




de waldek 19h century

It would be a dumb-ass thing to do,
   If I were allowed to fottere you,
   To place my cazzo in your potta,
   Choosing that instead of the rear end.
May my lineage die out with me!
   I'd like to fottere you back there many times,
   Since the round part's different from the slash
   As malmsey from watered-down wine.
Fottere me, do whatever you want
   In the potta and cul -- it's all the same to me
   Where you do what you have to do.
In both the potta and cul I'm aflame:
   All the mules, asses, and oxen in the world
   With their cazzi could not cool my lust.
         In any case you'd cut a poor figure
Doing it the old-fashioned way.
If I were a man, I'd never want potta.






late 19h century





late 19h century





late 19h century


Aretino dedicated the Sedici Modi to a doctor friend, Battista Zatti of Brescia:

"I dedicate this lewd memorial to you, and let the hypocrites take a flying leap; I'm sick of their thieving justice and their filthy traditions that forbid the eyes to see what most delights them. What harm is there in seeing a man mounted atop a woman? Must beasts be more free than we are? It seems to me that the organ given us by Nature to perpetuate our race should be worn around the neck like a pendant or as a medallion on a hat, because it is the source that feeds the rivers of mankind ...

"It has made you who ranks among the greatest living doctors. It has created me, who is 'better than bread' [i.e., good as gold]. It has produced the Bembos, the Molzas, the Fortunios, the Francos, the Varchis, the Ugolino Martellis, the Lorenzo Lenzi, the Dolces, the Fra Bastianos, the Sansovinos, the Titians, the Michelangelos, and after them, the popes, the emperors, and the kings; it has fathered beautiful little children and the most exquisite women with their 'holy of holies.'

"Therefore we should set aside holidays for it and sacred vigils and feast days, and not just wrap it up in a bit of cloth or silk. The hands might be better hidden because they gamble, swear falsely, commit usury, give the finger, rip, yank, punch, wound, and murder. And what do you think of the mouth, which curses, spits in your face, overeats, gets drunk, and vomits? In sum, lawyers could win some honor for themselves if they would add a clause for it in their books, and I think they will. In the meantime, try to decide whether my verses have accurately captured the positions of the jousters."

~ from History Laid Bare, by Richard Zachs