The iconography of two lovers embracing each other in an unnatural yet highly symbolic fashion recurs in the medieval French Arthurian romances – especially those in which the idea of courtly love is preserved in its purest form. There is a striking resemblance between the arrangement of Tristan and Iseult’s sleeping bodies in Béroul’s Tristan and the picture of a knight and a lady painted on the split shield sent by the Lady of the Lake in the Prose Lancelot, which are reproduced, again with an uncanny resemblance, by the famous illustration of Lancelot and Guinevere kissing each other in an early 14th-century manuscript of the Prose Lancelot (Pierpont Morgan Library ms. M.805, fol. 67r). This iconography, I will argue, marvelously sums up the modus operandi of medieval courtly love at its best, which still remains elusive after a century and a half of academic wild goose chase.
Since his earliest vitae, the confrontations of St Anthony the hermit with dangerous woman became one of the most important patterns for a negative narrative framing of the topics related with sexuality and carnal pleasure. Some very famous and some little known paintings from the region between Rhine and Carpathians offer a large scope of examples of creative artistic reactions to this traditional set of stories and problems, reacting to a new cultural situation, marked by new visual languages and styles, as well as by moral principles of new religious movements.