Masturbation, Mandrake Root, and Misogyny: The Bio- and Necropolitical Implications of Renaissance Hexenbilder




Ellis, Mary Catherine

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In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, several artists created prints and drawings of witches, also called Hexenbilder. In both German and Italian-speaking areas, artists expressed their cultural and religious understandings of witches and witchcraft. However, these artists also had their own political, social, and religious motives. The twentieth and twenty-first-century theories of biopolitics and necropolitics can assist in examining these motivations. Artists were hoping to educate their audiences about the dangers of witches and how to identify them. Artworks by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, and Hans Baldung Grien depicted the horrors and grotesqueness of witches. These artists wanted to make witches’ inability to be “good” biocitizens and thus needing to be executed well known. By analyzing Hexenbilder through the lens of these interrelated theories, we can better understand the bio- and necropolitical role that artworks played in encouraging and justifying the state-authorized control, persecution, and execution of thousands of women deemed witches.



witch, witchcraft, art, biopolitics, necropolitics, gender, renaissance, Anthropology, Honors College


Ellis, M. C. (2020). Masturbation, mandrake root, and misogyny: The bio- and necropolitical implications of renaissance hexenbilder (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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