Every day she nourisht him, with her most tender brest

Two intriguing early modern woodcuts which depict the breastfeeding scene from the story of Roman Charity recorded by Valerius Maximus. Pero secretly breastfeeds her father Cimon who is imprisoned and otherwise liable to starve to death. Her selfless act leads to her father’s pardon and release. The story appears to have been popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and even Rubens depicted the scene. Below are both woodcuts, the first dates from 1635, and the second from 1750. It’s interesting to note the same image inverted and changed in the second woodcut. These are the only examples of breastfeeding images in woodcuts I’ve seen to date.
 
 

From A worthy example of a vertuous wife who fed her father with her own milk, being condemned to be famished to death and after was pardoned by the Emperor. To the tune of Flying fame (1635)

 
 
 

From Roman charity: A worthy example of a virtuous wife, who fed her father with her own milk. He being commanded by the emperor to be starved to death, but afterwards pardoned (1750)


 
 
 

Roman Charity by Rubens (c.1612)


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