Category: Love Between Men

Creation of Adam — Sistine Ceiling (1508-1512)

Creation of Adam — Sistine Ceiling (1508-1512)

Date & Location:
1508-1512 in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome, Italy.

Artist:
Michelangelo Buonarroti

Media:
Fresco (paint applied to still-wet plaster, once dried it becomes integral to the wall)

Significance to Queer Art History:
Michelangelo has become iconic as a “gay man” with a place in the “Canon” of Art History. Renaissance Italy was a very homosocial culture for aristocratic men, and it was public knowledge that younger men (such as apprentices) often had intimate and sexual relationships with their mentors. Michelangelo was openly a part of this culture. Artistic expressions of his desire for other men have also survived for us to enjoy today. Especially, his poetry and drawings for Tommaso de’ Cavelieri have become famous for their passion. The kissing men in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel are likewise relevant as representations of queer desire as well as Michelangelo’s concern for his soul.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Last Judgement (detail), 1536-1541, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome. Fresco.

He is also an inspiration for contemporary queer artists in their own projects to reclaim and retell queer “art hirstories.” Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin is a Swedish photographer. Her work centres trans men and women, non-binary folx, lesbian and gay couples, and drag queens. She often centres them in scenes inspired by medieval and early modern renderings of biblical stories. One example, is her version of “The Creation of Adam” (“Creation”) from 2001. Her powerful reference to Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel reclaims his work for contemporary queer audiences.

Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, Creation, 2001. Copyright @ Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin.

References:
William E. Wallace. Michelangelo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Grant Wood (1891-1942)

Grant Wood (1891-1942)

Arnold Comes of Age

Artist: Grant Wood

Date & Location: 1930, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Media: Oil Painting

Where can I see this artwork?: Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, Nebraska

Previously part of Hide/Seek: Differences in American Portraiture in association with the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery

Significance to Queer Art History:

Painted in the same year as American Gothic, this piece shows a homoerotic view from Wood. The central figure being Arnold Pyle, the artists assistant and a possible love interest as Grant surrounded himself with other men who looked similar. With a background depicting nude male figures bathing against an idyllic setting like Wood’s other paintings, this painting suggests sexuality and the coming of age of a man as the title ensues.

Resources and Further Reading

Arnold Comes of Age. Smithsonian Institution, npg.si.edu/object/npg_N-38.

“Critics’ Picks: Grant Wood’s Painting ‘Arnold Comes of Age,’ ‘Monroe’ on DVD and Queen Elizabeth II.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 3 June 2012, www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/critics-picks-grant-woods-painting-arnold-comes-of-age-monroe-on-dvd-and-queen-elizabeth-ii/.

Terry. “American Gothic: Grant Wood.” Gay Influence: Gay & Bisexual Men of Importance, 2014, gayinfluence.blogspot.com/2011/12/american-gothic-grant-wood.html.

Grotta dell’Addaura Cave Painting (11,000 BCE)

Grotta dell’Addaura Cave Painting (11,000 BCE)

Date & Location: 10,000 BCE in Mount Pellegrino in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy.

Media: Painting

Significance to Queer Art History:

This cave painting was found in 1953 in Mount Pellegrino by archaeologist Jole Bovio Marconi after an explosion uncovered part of the site during the Allied Invasion of Sicily in World War II. The writings of Marconi describe her own interpretation of the depicted scene to be homoerotic in nature due to the male figures erect penises parallel to each other.

There are several interpretations of the scene depicted:

  1. The figures in a circle are tied in rope for a sacrificial ritual and splayed in arched-back positions by two shaman-like figures at the top with bird masks honoring the bird goddess.
  2. A homoerotic ritual conducted by the two shamans with the lines representing energy and/or male ejaculation at or after puberty.

Resources and Further Reading:

“Addaura Cave Engravings (11,000 BCE).” A-Z Of PREHISTORIC ART, www.visual-arts-cork.com/prehistoric/addaura-cave.htm. Accessed 15 July 2018.

Penczak, Christopher. “Before the Pen and the Plow.” In Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe, 10-12. Weiser Books, 2003.

Purpura, Giovanni. “Addaura.” http://www1.unipa.it/dipstdir/portale/ARTICOLI%20GIOVANNI/Addaura.pdf.

 

 

Achilles Binding Patroclus’ Wounds (500 BCE)

Achilles Binding Patroclus’ Wounds (500 BCE)

Achilles Binding Patroclus’ Wounds

Artist: Sosias Painter

Date & Location: 500 BCE in Greece

Media: Painted Pottery (Kylix Vase)

Where can I see this artwork?: Antikensammlung in Berlin, Germany

Significance to Queer Art History:

Achilles and Patroclus, are one of the most celebrated male warrior pairs in Greek literature after the Trojan War. Achilles is a young Greek warrior in Homer’s Iliad who possesses superhuman strength and ability as he was born from a nymph and a mortal. He is known for his only weakness being in his heel as his mother dipped him in the river Styx as an infant and held him by his heel. Patroclus is a warrior who grew up as a role model and companion to Achilles as appointed by Achilles’ father.

Homer, the poet writes the pair as two friends with a tender relationship later deemed as pederastic by the Greeks, where in which an older male figure mentors and cares for the younger as a “rite of passage” that could include sexual relations. After the death Patroclus, Achilles’ aim for fighting in the war became Patroclus. Achilles’ grief causes him insomnia and a great drive to fight and avenge Patroclus’ death at the hands of Hector, a Trojan prince and fighter for Troy. After Homer’s Iliad, the two can be found in art and literature demonstrating their bond and companionship.

Resources and Further Reading:

Gabriel Laguna-Mariscal, and Manuel Sanz-Morales. “Was the Relationship between Achilles and Patroclus Homoerotic? The View of Apollonius Rhodius.” Hermes 133, no. 1 (2005): 120-23. http://www.jstor.org.proxy.library.cpp.edu/stable/4477639.

Morales, Manuel Sanz, and Gabriel Laguna Mariscal. “The Relationship between Achilles and Patroclus According to Chariton of Aphrodisias.” The Classical Quarterly 53, no. 1 (2003): 292-95.

Winters, Riley. “Achilles and Patroclus: Brothers from Other Mothers or Passionate Paramours?” Ancient Origins. 2017. https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-europe/achilles-and-patroclus-brothers-other-mothers-or-passionate-paramours-008265.

 

 

Il Sodoma (1477-1549)

Il Sodoma (1477-1549)

Giovanni Bazzi, also known as Il Sodoma. (A mocking name aimed at Bazzi’s homosexuality that Bazzi later began to embrace) was a painter of the Italian renaissance, born in Savoy, Italy.  He was influenced by the prior works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael in his historical, mythical, and religious frescoes.

Featured Artwork: Marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxana (1571)

Where can I find this artwork?: Fresco at Villa Farnesina in Rome
Significance to Queer Art History: Alexander the Great is featured in the middle, gazing at his soon to be wife, Roxana as she is undressed by cupids for their consummation of marriage. Meanwhile, on the right, a clothed Hephaestion (Alexander’s best man) leans upon the marriage god, Hymen. Hephaestion was a general in Alexander’s army along with being his intimate partner and personal body guard. The two were inseparable throughout life. This fresco by Il Sodoma, exemplifies Alexander the Great’s bisexuality through Hephaestion’s closeness to the marriage god. While not married by law, Alexander and Hephaestion’s closeness during the marriage of Roxana and Alexander remains.

Resources & further reading:

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Il Sodoma.” Encyclopædia Britannica. March 31, 2017. Accessed August 2017. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Il-Sodoma.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 97-99.

Michael Page- Bisexual Pride Flag (1998)

Michael Page- Bisexual Pride Flag (1998)

Michael Page is a Florida based bisexual activist, creator of BiCafe (closed) and BiNet USA volunteer.

Featured Artwork: Bisexual Pride Flag

Date and Location: December 5, 1998 in Florida, USA

Significance to Queer Art History: The Bisexual Pride flag was created by Michael Page and debuted on December 8, 1998 on BiCafe . com (now defunct.) Page wanted to create a prominent symbol for the bisexual community just as the gay pride (rainbow) flag was prominent to the gay community after its creation by Gilbert Baker in 1978. He chose the colors for the flag for the popular “Bi-Angles” symbol of triangles and combined them into a flag that used 40% pink (to represent homosexuality), 20% purple (to represent a combination of homosexuality and heterosexuality), and 40% blue (to represent heterosexuality).

The pantone color codes from Page are as follows: PMS 226, 258, and 286

Bi-Angles symbol that inspired Michael Page (Creator Unknown): 

Resources & Further Reading:

Baxter-Williams, Libby. “Hoisting Our Colours: A Brief History of the Bisexual Pride Flag.” Biscuit. Accessed August 25, 2017. https://www.thisisbiscuit.co.uk/hoisting-our-colours-a-brief-history-of-the-bisexual-pride-flag/.

Ruocco, Caroline. “Mashable Publishes an Up-to-date Compilation of LGBT Flags and Symbols.” GLAAD. June 16, 2014. Accessed June 2017. https://www.glaad.org/blog/mashable-publishes-date-compilation-lgbt-flags-and-symbols.

Wong, Curtis M. “‘Celebrate Bisexuality Day’ Exists Because Of These Three LGBT Activists.” The Huffington Post. September 24, 2013. Accessed August 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/celebrate-bisexuality-day_n_3977289.html.

Mike Caffee- Fe-Be’s Leather David (1966)

Mike Caffee- Fe-Be’s Leather David (1966)

Featured Artwork: Fe-Be’s Leather David

Date & Location: 1966 in San Francisco, CA (USA)

Media: Plaster

Where can I see this artwork?: The GLBT History Museum in San Francisco, CA (USA)

Significance to Queer Art History: 
Created originally on commission for Fe-Be’s, the first leather bar on Folsom Street in San Francisco, CA.
This was a re-creation of Michelangelo’s iconic “David” as a leather biker icon. The iconic figure later appeared in other plaster and even bronze statues at bars around the United States.

Michelangelo’s David for reference: 

Resources & Further Reading: 

Caffee, Mike. Fe-Be’s Leather David. 1966. GLBT Historical Society Museum, San Francisco, CA.

“The Leather David or Fe-Be’s Statue.” The Leather David or Fe-Be’s Statue. Accessed August 2017. http://leatherdavid.blogspot.com/.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.