Jeu du bilboquet sans chandelle (Cup and ball game with the lights off)


Jeu du bilboquet [print]

This is Dominic Hills’s first print illustration of a Renaissance double-entendre (see Gallery for other examples). The phrase ‘Jeu du bilboquet sans chandelle’ (literally, cup and ball game without a candle) comes from a speech by the early seventeenth-century French stand-up Bruscambille, when he describes intervening in an argument between the king of the gods, Jupiter, and his long-suffering wife, Juno, about which sex gains most pleasure from … the cup and ball game with the lights off.

The gods initially turned to Tiresias, who was born a man but became a woman for seven years, to settle their dispute. Bruscambille goes to the heavens to support Tiresias’s judgement that women gain more sexual gratification than men. Indeed, he says that if any man in his audience is arguing with his wife on this very topic they should send her along to him, so he can prove that she can gain more pleasure in under fifteen minutes than a man could get in an entire day…