A chastity belt from the 18th century and a baculum sold at auction for thousands of pounds in December

Thomas Del Mar of Blythe Road, Olympia, is evidently a gender-neutral, equal-opportunities, non-sexist, PC sort of auctioneer. Not only did its December sale include a chastity belt, but there was also a baculum. Recent newspapers have enjoyed the story of a middle-aged lady in Padua who turned to the local firefighters for professional help when she had lost the key to her voluntarily worn chastity belt. Despite red faces all round, they were able to perform the task.

Current thinking on the subject holds that few, if any, such belts were made before the 18th century, and that earlier references were either theological metaphors or ribald jokes.

However, it seems worth recording that one of the earliest known examples, which is on display in the Doge’s palace in Venice, is apparently recorded there in an inventory of 1548. Is it pure coincidence that it is described as ‘braga de fero della moier del Signor de Padoa’ the iron pants of the wife of the Prince of Padua?

That is a similar design to the belt offered by Del Mar and the company knows of two comparable examples in a German castle collection and another in Austria. They dated this one, ‘probably’, to the latter part of the 17th century because of the style of the scrolling decorative engraving on the, as it were, business plate.

 

This also had stitch-holes, indicating that it would have been padded. No key was mentioned, and the small padlock was said to be a replacement, but someone had faith enough to bid it to £18,600.

I wonder how many readers could claim, hand on heart, to know the meaning of ‘baculum’. Although I knew what the object it described was, I had never come across the word before. It signifies a penis bone, a feature of many mammals and all primates except man and woolley and spider monkeys.

Creationists have suggested that the human lack came about because Adam’s baculum was used to create Eve. That at Del Mar probably came from a walrus. It was thought to be 19th century and measured 18-and-a-half in long and, lotted with an African knobkerrie, was sold for £1,716. The most expensive example recorded at auction made $8,000 in 2007, but that was also the largest on record, measuring 54in.