Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, a new exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, comes with a warning to spectators: parental discretion advised. Mixed in with decorous portraits of noblemen are 16th-century pornographic images, dirty books, and other obscene artifacts. For Wall Street Journal critic James Gardner, the mixing of high and low images "forces us to look at some very familiar pieces in a fresh way."
The Met's new exhibition contains first-rate work by masters from Titian to Tintoretto, and also includes objects from daily life, such as chalices, needle cases, and bridal chests. But the real surprises lie in the X-rated galleries: a print of a woman with a removable skirt, or a book of sonnets detailing the mechanics of different sexual positions. For Gardner, they remind us that some of the paintings we venerate as high art were not just "aesthetic statements," but also "works of bracing eroticism."