Category: Love Between Men

Unknown- Tomb of Niankhnum and Khnumhotep (2400 BCE)

Unknown- Tomb of Niankhnum and Khnumhotep (2400 BCE)

Featured Artwork: Entry Fresco to Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s Mastaba

Date & Location: 2400 BCE in Saqarra, Egypt

Significance to Queer Art History: This mastaba is the joint tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. The two men were the chief manicurists and groomers to the king in their time. The nose-to-nose “kiss” pose given to them is intimate and was only given to straight married couples for Egyptian art at this time.

The wives and children of the two men are shown in the tomb as well, but less prominently featured than Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s relationship. Khnumhotep is even seen to be occupying roles of a wife figure for Niankhnum in certain frescoes inside the mastaba.

 

Resources & Further Reading: 

“Evidence of Gay Relationships Exists as Early as 2400 B.C.” Egyptology. Accessed April 2017. http://www.egyptology.com/niankhkhnum_khnumhotep/dallas.html.

“Tour Egypt.” The Tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep at Saqqara in Egypt. Accessed April 2017. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/niankhnumt.htm.

 

Kritios and Nesiotes- Tyrannicide Monument (477 BCE)

Kritios and Nesiotes- Tyrannicide Monument (477 BCE)

Featured Artwork: Statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton (Also known as Tyrannicide Monument)

Original artists: Kritios and Nesiotes (477 BCE) in Athens, Greece.
The only remaining pictured sculpture is a Greco-Roman copy that can be signified by the figure’s dependence upon faux wooden bases

Where can I view this artwork?: Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy

Significance to Queer Art History:

The warrior lovers Harmodius (right) and Aristogeiton (left) rescued the ideals of democracy from a dictator and were heroes to Athens in 514 BCE. Thus, the statues of the warriors were commissioned to be displayed in the public forum. This was the 1st statue to honor mortal heroes instead of divine heroes in public.

Symbolism to note: 

  • Aristogeiton, the older warrior (left) lunges forward and offers a protective cloak for Harmodius. This may symbolize the warrior’s mutual devotion and platonic love to one another.
  • Statues at this time were no longer static and archaic. Instead, they showed idealized realism and movement in posture as the figures place their feet forward and stand in contraposto (meaning, that weight is shifted to one side of the figure.)
  • Both figures are nude. Nudity in Greek sculpture was reserved for gods/ goddesses, warriors, and athletes.

Resources & Further Reading:

“Crizio E Nesiote.” Crizio E Nesiote — Sito Ufficiale Del Museo Archeologico Nazionale Di Napoli. Accessed August, 2017. http://cir.campania.beniculturali.it/museoarcheologiconazionale/glossario/ploneglossarydefinition.2008-06-09.8429349527

“Perseus Digital Library.” Classical Tyrannicides (Sculpture). Accessed August, 2017. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Classical%2BTyrannicides&object=Sculpture.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 17-21.

Charles Demuth (1883-1935)

Charles Demuth (1883-1935)

Demuth was an openly gay artist based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (USA). He is known by most museum-goers as a precisionist architectural watercolorist. Yet, Demuth also painted more homoerotic works of art set in bathhouses and other accepted homosocial environments.

Featured Artwork: Dancing Sailors

Date & Location: 1918 in Pennsylvania, USA

Media: Watercolor and pencil

Where can I view this artwork?: The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio (USA). Not currently on view.

Significance to Queer Art History: While not unusual for male sailors to dance with one another without women in this time, Demuth works to embody the closeness of the two left sailors in their gazes toward one another with the added tension of having them dancing with women instead of one another. Along with this, the focus dwells on the muscular bodies of the sailors and their outlined buttocks.

Resources & Further Reading:

“Dancing Sailors.” Cleveland Museum of Art. http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1980.9.

Weinberg, Jonathan. “Demuth’s Erotic Watercolors.” In Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley and the First American Avante-garde, 98-100. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Donatello (1386-1466)

Donatello (1386-1466)

Donatello, born as Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi was a sculptor prominently featured through the Italian Renaissance in Florence, Italy. Donatello was one of the first modern artists to be known as gay in Florence, a city where homosexuality was prominent among artists and patrons alike, albeit, still frowned upon by certain sectors (namely, the church.) Donatello’s studio was a homosocial environment where in which, he chose apprentices from his standards of beauty rather than skill.

Featured Artwork: David

Date & Location: (1430-1440) in Florence, Italy

Media: Bronze

Where can I view this artwork?: Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, Italy.

Donatello’s David was the first known freestanding life-size male nude sculpture since ancient Roman monuments. This was a renaissance of restored “perfection” in the classical arts. This figure idolized male form and androgyny in its form and soft curves.

The symbolism in the piece also recalls an early homoerotic allusion to the eagle of Jupiter in David’s feathered helmet-tail. Roman myth told of Jupiter’s eagle looking and lusting after the divine hero, Ganymede.

Resources & Further Reading:

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 83-84.

National Museum of Bargello – Florence. Accessed August 06, 2017. http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/museum_of_bargello.html.

Muhammad Qasim- Shah Abbas I with a Page

Muhammad Qasim- Shah Abbas I with a Page

Featured Artwork: Shah Abbas I with a Page

Media: Miniature Ink and paint illustration

Date and location: 1627 in the Persian Empire (Now Iran)

Where can I find this artwork?: The Louvre in Paris France in Islamic Art: The Modern Empires (1500–1800)

Significance to Queer Art History: 

This miniature illustration depicts Shah Abbas I of Persia and his page boy interacting and sharing wine. The imagery is soft and intimate as the page holds the wine flask erect towards the Shah’s crotch and almost embraces him. In Islam, sex was a positive thing. Sex between men was even held as a “spiritual bliss”, albeit not officially condoned. The small arabic lettering on the right hand side gestures at the bliss of wine and lovers, reading:

“May life provide all that you desire from three lips: those of your lover, the river, and the cup.”

All three of these things may be featured if the tree setting is in fact, near a river. This illustration also brings forward an allusion to the Koran’s view of paradise with all the blisses of life from the poem in tact.

Resources & Further Reading: 

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 146-147.

Summers, Claude J. “Erotic Miniature Painting.” In The Queer Encyclopedia of the Visual Arts. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 2004.

“Work Shah Abbas I and His Page.” Louvre Museum | Paris. Accessed August 11, 2017. http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/shah-abbas-i-and-his-page.

 

 

Unknown- Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple

Unknown- Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple

Featured Artwork: Presentation of the Virgin by Fra Carnevale

Date & Location: 1465 in Florence, Italy

Media: Tempera and oil paint

Significance to Queer Art History:
The male couple in the middle reflects “temptation” and modern relationships in Florence with their modern dress and the figure on the left (almost half way up the painting) “chucking” the other man under the chin in suggestive fashion. This was considered an erotic gesture and perhaps a lash at the purity of the rest of the scene that alluded to some of the contemporary lives of young men in Florence.

Close-up view of couple:

Where can I view this artwork?: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA (USA) (Museum Council Gallery (Gallery 254))

Resources & Further Reading:

“Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple.” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. February 05, 2017. Accessed August 15, 2017. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/presentation-of-the-virgin-in-the-temple-32587.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 85-87.

 

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

Albrecht Dürer was a printmaker and painter from Nuremberg Germany. His prints are considered prolific to the German Renaissance. Dürer worked and traveled to Italy much during his studies of visual arts and spent time with a lifelong and rumored intimate partner, Willibald Prickheimer, a German lawyer and humanist author. This intimacy was documented through letters that also discussed Durer’s dual lust for German girls and soldiers. Dürer even created a charcoal portrait of Prickheimer with a quite blatant Greek quotation that roughly translates to: “With the cock in your asshole”

Featured Artwork: The Bath House

Date and location: 1496 in Germany

Media: Woodcut Print

Where can I see this artwork?:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (not currently on view)

Significance to Queer Art History: 

Durer’s Bath House explores a homosocial environment of drinking, playing music, and flirting that illustrates Dürer’s experiences in bath houses and similar areas. The imagery proves to be homoerotic as well in placement of a phallic fountain at the crotch of the male figure on the left of the image.

 

Resources & Further Reading: 

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 92-96.

Schulz, Matthias, and Spiegel Online. “The God of Colors: Researchers Shed New Light on Artist Albrecht Dürer.” SPIEGEL ONLINE. May 01, 2012. Accessed July 2017. http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/new-details-emerge-on-artist-duerer-ahead-of-exhibition-a-830282.html.

“Albrecht Dürer | The Bath House | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. Accessed July  2017. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/388481.

(1471-1528), Albrecht Dürer. “Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) – The Bath House.” Royal Collection Trust. July 12, 1495. Accessed July 2017. https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/800195/the-bath-house.

Peithinos Painter- Peithinos Cup

Peithinos Painter- Peithinos Cup

Featured Artwork: Peithinos Cup

Date and Location: (525-475 BCE) Athens, Greece

Significance to Queer Art History: This cup is a kylix vessel, used for male centered social drinking of wine. Most kylix vessels had sexual or humorous depictions of individuals on the inside (a surprise for finishing the drink, if you will) and outsides. This kylix vessel, signed by the painter, Peithinos, shows heterosexual and homosexual courtship on the exterior.

Where can I see this artwork?: Currently in the Antikenmuseen’s Collection in Berlin, Germany.

Resources & Further Reading:

“200977, Berlin, Antikensammlung, Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, F2279.” Provenance – The Classical Art Research Centre. Accessed August 08, 2017. http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/XDB/ASP/recordDetails.asp?id=5C03CFDF-D841-432A-8B2C-FAAD6697E456&noResults=&recordCount=&databaseID=&search=.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 21-27.

 

Herbert Singleton- Love that not Love

Herbert Singleton- Love that not Love

Featured Artwork:  Love That Not Love

Date and Location: 1990 in New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)

Media: Acrylic paint on carved wood

Where can I see this artwork?: Displayed in the past at the New Orleans Old Mint Museum as part of the exhibition, titled: Soul of the South: Selections from the Gitter-Yellen Collection. On display: November 20, 2015 – May 28, 2017

Herbert Singleton (1945-2007) , a self-taught artist from New Orleans, LA (USA) painted this to show the messages considered taboo (yet clear in the carved figures loving embrace) in the 1990s. Love between white men was just on the brink of hitting major popular culture and television at this time, while love between black men and men of color was scant, hence the title: ‘Love That Not Love”.

Sources & Further Reading:
“Herbert Singleton” Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery. Accessed August 07, 2017. http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artist/?id=7431.
MacCash, Doug. “Herbert Singleton, Noted Folk Artist Dies.” NOLA.com. August 02, 2007. Accessed August 07, 2017. http://blog.nola.com/dougmaccash/2007/08/herbert_singleton_noted_folk_a.html.
Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Featured Artwork: The Musicians

Media: Oil Paint

Date and location: 1595 in Rome

Where can I find this artwork?: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY (USA)

Significance to Queer Art History: Caravaggio’s work, characterized by his dramatic chiaroscuro technique (chiaroscuro uses dramatic lights and darks to model the figures coming out of the shadows in a “theatrical spotlight” manner) were sensual and dreamlike. This work in particular hosts a homosocial event of music and its connections to love, as signified by the cupid on the left side of the painting.

 

Resources & Further Reading: 

“Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) | The Musicians | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed August 2017. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435844.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 114-118.