The male dress style of the higher classes of European society was revolutionised in the early years of the Renaissance. The codpiece was introduced into the male tunic. The codpiece had proportions that were at times grotesque, and so extreme that the question of the purpose of its use arises. Art gallery guides speculate that the codpiece represented a statement of the virility of the individual and could be looked on as a sex promotion object. This is clearly the impression gained from, for example Holbein’s portrayal of Henry VIII, arms akimbo, broad shouldered, groin thrust forward, the very epitome of a lusty male. The codpiece, however, may have been a disguise for underlying disease.
Italy was the leader in many concepts of the new fashions in the Renaissance. For men, there was a change from the narrow-waisted vertical line to the more horizontal. Among the wealthier, the trend in the very late fifteenth century appears to be towards longer hose and shorter doublets leading to a space in which the male genitals may have been exposed if not covered. In Italy, assuming that paintings of the time accurately reflect the dress of the day, artists included the display of the codpiece as a dramatic element of male costume. In Italy, the codpiece was called a sacco and in France, a braguette.
Italian researchers have discovered tiny letters on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa portrait, which they believe will shed light on who the model was. Silvano Vinceti of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage explained in interviews that the letters can easily be seen with a magnifying glass and can be seen on her eyes.