Turin erotic satirical papyrus
The erotic-satirical papyrus also known Turin Erotic Papyrus, which should be read from right to left, consists of two parts. It measures 8.5 feet (2.6 m) by 10 inches (25 cm).
The right side carries a topsy-turvy representation of a world where animals act like humans. This part of the scroll-painting has been described as satirical and humorous. Some animals wear clothes, other play musical instruments, and others are fighting with weapons like bows and arrows.
The roles of predator and prey are reversed: mice and birds have the upper hand against cats, and gazelles take lions as prisoner with long sticks and ropes.
On the left side, we have the erotic part, where young women, most probably all musicians, are having intercourse in a variety of positions with men with absurdly large phalluses. It is important to underline that this papyrus is not pornographic in nature, but rather comical and satirical.
In ancient Egypt, caricatures depicting animals and sexually explicit subjects have always been considered ironic, as is often the case in modern comics. Both sides of the papyrus show typical Egyptian satiric subjects. On one side animals are shown wearing clothes and parodying human behavior.
In the other scenes, Egyptian humor finds another outlet in what may actually be a form of “pornography”. This must not be regarded as Egyptian “Kamasutra”, but as a comical pictorial composition. The artist emphasized the strenuousness of the acts and the uncomfortable and acrobatic positions in which some men have intercourse with women.
The physical appearance of the men is a caricature of lower-class people. Their bald heads and unshaven faces give them the away as members of the social class of manual workers and peasants, who do not have the time or means to take care of their bodies. Sexuality is almost never exhibited in the monuments and objects of the elite.
The activity represented here is therefore intended to be obscene, although the expensive papyrus medium indicates that this is an object destined for the use of higher class of people, is clearly intended for use by a higher class of people, who may have derived pleasure from feeling superior to these coarse and vulgar bawdies.
The women, on the other hand, are represented according to the classic canons of beauty of Egyptian art, to make the scene more arousing. Why combine the scene of lust with an animal parody? The answer may be the pleasure of transgression: of the natural barriers between animals and humans, and the rules of social decorum. You can find more detailed images from a different reconstruction of the erotic papyrus here.
New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, Ramesside Period, ca. 1189-1077 BC. From Deir el-Medina, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. C. 2031