In Castoria

In Castoria

What is rather less striking in this composition, unless one is familiar with the medieval iconography of the animal that has occupied our attention here, is that somewhat to Héloïse’s left the sculptor has chiseled one such, a beaver, facing away from the couple, evidently indifferent to their unquenchable passion. In a 1669 study the French anatomist announces: “It can be seen from the exact description that we have just made that [the perineal sac] is not the beaver’s testicles, as many distinguished naturalists have imagined.” [13] He tells the story of Pliny’s mockery of Sextius, who had believed the old tale of the beaver’s self-castration, while Pliny for his part insists that this is impossible, since “this animal has its testicles attached to the spine of its back,” and thus, presumably, cannot reach them with its teeth.

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