Thrust: A Spasmodic Pictorial History of the Codpiece in Art

By Michael Glover

A laugh-out-loud visual history of the strangest piece of men’s clothing ever created: the codpiece.

The codpiece was fashioned in the Middle Ages to close a revealing gap between two separate pieces of men’s tights. By the sixteenth century, it had become an upscale must-have accessory. This light-hearted, illustrated examination of its history pulls in writers from Rabelais to Shakespeare and figures from Henry VIII to Alice Cooper. Glover’s witty and entertaining prose reveals how male vanity turned a piece of cloth into a bulging and absurd representation of masculinity itself. The codpiece, painted again and again by masters such as Titian, Holbein, Giorgione, and Bruegel, became a symbol of royalty, debauchery, virility, and religious seriousness—all in one.

Centuries of male self-importance and delusion are on display in this highly enjoyably new title. Glover’s book moves from paintings to contemporary culture and back again as it charts the growing popularity of the codpiece and its eventual decline. The first history of its kind, this book is a must-read for art historians, anthropologists, fashion aficionados, and readers looking for a good, long laugh.


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: ekphrasis

Contributors: Michael Glover

Designer: Mike Dyer, Remake

Printer: VeronaLibri, Verona

Publication Date: 2019

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 4 ¼ × 7 in | 10.8 × 17.8 cm

Pages: 94

Reproductions: 25 color

ISBN: 9781644230244

Retail: $15 | $20 CAN | £10.95

Status: Available


Dedicated to publishing rare, out-of-print, and newly commissioned texts as accessible paperback volumes the ekphrasis series is part of David Zwirner Books’s ongoing effort to publish new and surprising pieces of writing on visual culture.

read more

Michael Glover

Michael Glover is a London-based poet and art critic, and poetry editor of The Tablet. He has written regularly for The Economist, Financial Times, The Independent, New Statesman, and The Times. He has also been a London correspondent for ARTnews. His latest books include Great Works: Encounters with Art (2016), Hypothetical May Morning (2018), Late Days (2018), The Book of Extremities (2019), and Neo Rauch (2019).