Enema Art Unraveled

Enema (pronounced as en-uh-muh) is the method of introducing fluid into the rectum to cleanse the colon using a rubber bag, clyster syringe, and other related equipment.

It has been used for ages to cleanse the body and improve the health of the human body.

Many have forgotten about it today, but it is coming back strong, because it is an easy and cheap way to stay healthy.

Enema art refers to works such as paintings, caricatures, pictures, videos, and even plays where enemas appear frequently or are the focal points.

The Roots

This art category was popularized in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to satirize the military, religious, and territorial policies of Louis XIV, king of France, who ruled from 1643 to 1715.

The clyster syringe, which was commonly used then for administering enema, represented the severity of these policies and the inability to control the excretion of bodily wastes as a result from its use symbolized how the outcomes of these policies had imbittered a lot of people.

It also alluded to the excesses of the royalty like referring to the fact that Louis XIV received as many as four enemas in a day.

Examples of enema art include the following:

  1. A particularly explicit political cartoon by Romeyn de Hooghe, which depicted the caricature of King Louis XIV, which is easily identified because of a sun-burst on his head on top of a terrestrial globe, where a large clyster syringe pierces it. His bowel, successfully loosened by the enema, is spilled over the world.

  2. Moliere’s plays such as Le Malade Imaginaire and Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, which ridiculed the society’s perspective on enema as a remedy for hypochondriacal melancholy

  3. Cervantes’s The Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha

  4. Claude Villiers’s L'Apoticaire de qualite

A Contemporary Take on Its Symbolism

Here are a few examples on how modern viewers and art analysts interpret things:

  1. When shown with men, sarcastic representation of wit, genius, refinement, and social standing. For men, enema was perceived as a treatment for hypochondriacal melancholy, which was believed then to be a male disease and was associated with the exalted masculine traits of genius, sensibility, and social status.

  2. When shown with women, representation of women in terms of their frailty and weakness. Though women suffered similar symptoms as the men, they were not diagnosed with hypochondrial melancholy. Their discomfort was blamed upon hysteria, an illness considered to be a disorder of the womb that could be treated with sexual intercourse. Images of enema imply that marriage, with all its intents of female submission, was woman's best remedy. The metaphor depicted in female enema scenes alludes to the penetrating nature of the phallus.


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