Every once in a while historians and archeologists discover strange and magnificent art from ages past. Most of these works of art are absent from traditional art history books, but are worthy of being studied on the merit of each work’s uniqueness in ages gone by.

As strange as some are, they give us a glimpse into a world that oral or written history could not depict quite as accurately. We’ve collected several aberrant works that stand out and are posted for your perusal below.

You’re welcome.

 


He-Gassen

(Japanese: 屁合戦 – literally: “Fart Battle”)

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He-Gassen is a Japanese artistic scroll dating back to the Edo period (between 1603 and 1868). Throughout the scroll are images of men and women engaged in some kind of epic fart war, blowing hats off of heads and even shooting gas straight through a wooden wall. The artist (or artists) of this strange work are unknown, yet this legendary work lives on.

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At first glance, many people would consider this to be one of the oldest pieces of toilet humor. However, like the modern political cartoons of our present day, this work of art would have been interpreted clearly as a comment on political and social change in Japan during the time it was created.

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Historians believe this (and other similar drawings) were created in response to the increasing encroachment of Europeans into Japan during the Edo period. Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo period, and were notoriously xenophobic. It was the last feudal Japanese military government, ruled by Shoguns from the Tokugawa clan.

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During this time, only the Dutch East India Company, China, and select English traders were allowed in specified sections of Japan; if other Europeans tried to land their ships, they would be executed without trial. So while the scrolls may seem superficially humorous, the gas is thought to represent the xenophobia itself in a metaphorical jab at the overly-serious attitude of the Japanese towards these foreigners.

 

To see the complete He-Gassen scroll, click: HERE.

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Massa Marittima Mural

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Discovered in 2000 in Massa Marittima, a small town in Italy south-west of Italy, this mural seems to depict a gathering of women underneath a tree covered in 25 penises (or some kind of phallic fruit…). This painting is dated back to the 13th Century, and some historians believe it to be a rare Medieval illustration of witchcraft, as well as possibly the earliest surviving depiction from Christian Europe.

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According to Tuscan folklore, and later recorded in the witch-hunter’s manual Malleus Maleficarum (translated to “Hammer of the Witches” in Latin), witches would steal male genitalia and place them in birds’ nests to keep them “alive,” feeding them corn and oats. The mural may have been a warning against witchcraft, illustrating the strife, heresy, and sexual perversion that could happen if they were given any kind of political power.

 


Medieval Margin Art

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While on the topic of Dick-Fruit Trees, lets take a look at some “margin art.” In the medieval ages, monks were required to copy manuscripts by hand – basically, they were the data-entry specialists of their day. Writing under harsh conditions many times, the monks began doodling in the margins of the texts they were copying to pass the time.

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Amongst all their bitching about their tired hands and the cold temperatures are drawings ranging from the banal to the bizarre, depicting everything from half-humanoid creatures in compromising situations to “rapey” rabbits and trumpeting assholes.

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In some ways, it’s a shame many of these monks devoted so much time to repetitive text-copying when their artistic flourishes demonstrate the inherent skills of these hidden artists. Albeit through these drawings and comments, historians can gather almost as much (if not more) information on the experiences and lives of those living in the middle-ages than reading the original manuscripts themselves.

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Although the drudgery of copying works of writing by hand is over, one comment found in the margins rings true to workers of repetitive tasks across all time periods: “Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake, give me a drink.”

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Haven’t gotten your fill? There’s plenty more. Check out this list of 20 more epic margin drawings: HERE.

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Ryan Tindrick
Ryan Tindrick
Filmmaker; a writer, a director, a producer, a cinematographer, a visual designer, a photographer, an actor, an editor, and some days... just a grip.