Well, that’s Awkward: When the Cat Gets Hold of Someone’s Genitals

This is my favorite WTF image in a long time. Dating from 1555, it’s a Renaissance image. I don’t officially know the story behind it, but there’s a good discussion of it on Reddit.

Says sl99:

‘Flaisch macht Flaisch’ is from the old German proverb ‘Fleisch macht Fleisch, fisch macht nisch’. It would roughly translate to ‘meat gives meat, fish gives nothing’, meaning that meat is more nourishing than fish.

Fleisch is in German also connected to ‘Fleischeslust’, which means carnal desire. The fish can be connected to the catholic tradition of eating fish on friday, or abstinence from eating meat.

So in this picture, the proverb is interpretated (sic) in a raunchy way. The nun wants to trade the fish that implicates abstinence from meat/lust for the meat that obviously represents carnal desire.

Considering the subject, time period (1555) and origin (Germany, as indicated by language), it is presumably Protestant propaganda. Nuns and monks were widely depicted as subsumed by material desires in contrast to their vows, and Protestants had rejected celibacy as a requirement for priests. Quite the opposite, they commonly emphasized the importance of marriage, children and family bonds.

Thus, the nun is desperate to “get some” as a woman would naturally want, presumably from the leering man in the jester’s cap hanging out the window, who has just been emasculated.  In a further bit of satire, a phallus also dangles from her rosary..


  1. This image also reminds me of an episode of the ‘Roman de Renart’, in which a cat ‘steals’ a priest’s genitals? The Roman was well known in continental Europe, especially in Germany and France.
    Maybe the resemblance is not that casual…

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  4. The timing of this artwork with the 1555 Augsburg Treaty is critical to grasping all that it depicts. Between 1540s and 1560s (even into 80s), the politics, populous, and both faiths (Protestant and Catholic) were under a Reformation – and Luther’s Notice hadn’t even hit the fan yet! Do read thr (very) short account at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_of_Augsburg and then hop over to Martin Luther who (smile) caused no small liturgicsl indigestion to the clergy at Würms.
    Mybtake is, events were meant to appease both populace faiths and church heirarchies, despite skirmishing leaders’ opinions, and parlay pleasing everyone all the time. Never good. The ‘cat’, I believe, is actually a ferret – common guard animal then (but less so today), in attack mode always goes for human’s ‘junk’. The Catholic nun chases the beast while the Protestant male breaches the nunnery window. In 1548 or so, the Treaty was allowing clergy marriage. The nun’s spent or spare hemline fish (note the same fin artwork) isn’t so unvlear, as hem-hiding is still practiced. She wants the ferret to desist, the Protestant wants the virgin. Her rosary betrays the dilemma – daily piety (7 beads) ratio’d as a 10 (god’s perfection), but doesn’t match the holy rosary bead count and totals 17, a prime number (read heretical or sacriligious) of diabolical outcome, her phallic cross isn’t hypocrisy, its the lawful tradeoff the treaty accomplished in Sept, 1555. His roughness contrasts her sublime authority to do right, but. her vestment (exposed feet and ankles (!)) are shock and awe enough, until the man’s much bawdy affront is grasped. The animal looks backward, a point at the Treaty’s liturgical shifts making faith flawed, if not ruining the populous’ eternity. There’s a good deal more, but this 1555 datestamp and the Treaty are outrageous commentary. Lyther took serious (martyr) hits. This must have gauled many.

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