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Tony Grist

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Exhibitionist With Fishes [May. 12th, 2018|09:13 am]
Tony Grist
The west front of Rochester cathedral is Romanesque. Beautiful arcading, beautiful diaper work.

I called Ailz over.

"See that figure in the central lunette. I think it's a Sheela-na-gig. What do you think?" She thought it was too. But it was a long way off the ground and we couldn't be sure of the details.

When I got home I blew up the image and it became rather more mysterious.

I think we can agree that it's an exhibitionist- that's to say- a grotesque figure displaying "those parts that men delight to see". They can be either male or female- and in this instance someone has taken a hammer to the crucial area so we can't be sure. I imagine the vandalism was deliberate- and probably took place in the 19th century- when people were more irked by public indecency than at any time before or since. The face is well-weathered but I rather think I can see a big moustache and a little beard, so it's probably male. But the really odd thing is it has a large fish in either hand.

Is it a merman? A river god?

Rochester sits on the banks of the river Medway so that last suggestion is the one I'm going for...

[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2018-05-12 08:39 am (UTC)
I go for a merman as there has to be a male equivalent to mermaids.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-05-12 08:46 am (UTC)
It could even be a mermaid. I can't be entirely sure it's male. And mermaids show up a lot in medieval art.
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From: ambezi
2018-05-12 09:04 am (UTC)
I don't associate Merman/mermaid with anything that has legs and feet, which this figure clearly has. The stone below and several adjacent are replacements and this defacement (sic) could have taken place when this work was being done. I'd expect that the Cathedral has records when this work took place.
Only 5 miles from me so it will be interesting to see when I pass that way next.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-05-12 05:21 pm (UTC)
The cathedral has been worked on continuously. The Victorians did a lot of rebuilding and restoration and some of the west front carving is 20th century. The central tower dates from 1902; early photographs show it with pinnacles and no spire
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2018-05-12 11:21 am (UTC)
explain to me about diaper work. When you say diaper, my American mind looks for nappies....
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-05-12 12:26 pm (UTC)
Diaper work is repeated patterning.

I don't know how the same word came to be used for nappies. There doesn't seem to be an obvious connection.
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