Also known as the “privy parts” or “birthday suit,” pudenda is a denotation of human genitalia that imputes shame to them. As Leo Steinberg explains in his analysis of depictions of the sexuality of Christ, “the word [pudenda] derives from the Latin pudere, to feel or cause shame. But shame entered the world as the wages of sin. Before their transgression, Adam and Eve, though naked, were unembarrassed; and were abashed in consequence of their lapse” (pg. 17). The artistic focus on Christ’s genitalia in many Renaissance paintings, what Steinberg terms ostentatio genitalium, thus served to compliment the emphasis on Christ’s role as redeemer. Though Christ is depicted with a penis, it does not carry with it the shame of pudenda. Christ’s possession of human genitals affirmed his descent into the realm of man, the miracle of his incarnation in human flesh; his showing of his genitals seemingly without shame affirmed the purpose of his incarnation: the redemption of man’s original sin and the shame which he had suffered for it since the fall.
Masaccio, Expulsion of Adam and Eve, 1425-28.