Created by Bronzino at the height of the Renaissance, this Saint Sebastian is a good example of how depictions of the saint evolved towards physical embellishment. The earlier depiction is much more in keeping with medieval Christian iconographic tradition: the saint is standing, clothed, and bears the instruments of his martyrdom, the arrows. Works of this kind gave shape to the homoerotic interpretation of the Renaissance Saint Sebastian focused on his physical splendour.
The Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari described the two painters as inseparable and many scholars point out that although Pontormo adopted Bronzino — a practice that was not unusual among painters and apprentices — their relationship was much more than one of filial love. It is significant that Florence was ravaged by plague between and , and there is speculation whether this work may have been commissioned as an expression of gratitude when the outbreak died out.
The well-formed body contrasts with the ephebic, ambiguous and natural-looking face that has something of a portrait about it. How can this homoerotic nature be accounted for? Furthermore, Sebastian is portrayed in intimate conversation with an observer, gesturing with his right hand to emphasise his words.
Particularly significant details are the arrows, which this author compares to those of Cupid in other paintings by Bronzino and which the artist uses as an emblem of the blend of humanistic Christianity and Apollonian classicism that is embodied particularly well by the figure of Saint Sebastian.
The abovementioned episode of Hercules at the court of Omphale, one of the most popular in the Renaissance, is thus used by Cranach as a misogynous and moralistic warning against women who exercise authority, as they can cause men to take leave of their senses. The hero, known for his strength, is radically subjugated to female norms.
All three figures have been interpreted as ladies-in-waiting to the queen, as none of them wears distinctive clothing. Cranach places the hero in the foreground. Two of the women flank the demigod, while the third, standing with a spindle in her hand, frames the composition on the right and engages the spectator with her gaze.
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The expression of amusement on their faces contrasts with his own — a mixture of resignation and embarrassment. Hans set the scene in a contemporary context by attiring the figures as ladies of the German court in rich velvet dresses and headdresses with gauze veils. This poses an interesting challenge, as it is necessary to examine them through the eyes of a seventeenth-century rather than a twenty-first-century spectator.
The myth of Caravaggio as a sexual rebel was built on a very specific corpus of works: those executed in the s, when he arrived in Rome and worked in the service of Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte. The cardinal introduced him to the circles of the most powerful people in the city and provided him with stability. Caravaggio painted one of his best-known works for the cardinal and most likely this Saint Catherine of Alexandria, which is notable for its naturalism and sensuality.
The model has been identified as Fillide Melandroni, a famous courtesan of the day.
Arms Out, Palms Open: Conflict, Reconciliation, and Gay Inclusion
Cardinal Del Monte was the eyes and ears of the Medicis in Rome, who were traditionally linked to France. According to biographers like Andrew Graham-Dixon, the cardinal was relatively wealthy, open-minded, an art lover and perhaps not very fond of the Counter-Reformation, but certainly not the libertine history makes him out to be. Saslow believe that the works produced for Cardinal Del Monte illustrate a highly novel phenomenon: the growth of cities and their economic structures led to the emergence for the first time of a group of wealthy men interested in producing and sharing a series of homoerotic works that could be interpreted as one of the first examples of homosexual subculture.
Giustiniani kept it in a prominent place but concealed behind a curtain — some claimed out of modesty and others to heighten the drama when it was revealed. Caravaggio reacted by writing satirical poems and the matter ended up in court, where snippets of information about his private life were revealed: for example, a certain G. The term bardassa is frequently found in Florentine legal literature and refers to a young man who offers sexual services to other men as a receiving partner — that is, a prostitute; indeed, the court papers mention that Caravaggio shared these expenses with a friend.
Another name that is linked to Caravaggio is Cecco. Other legal documents reveal that Caravaggio was involved in disputes with women and regularly hung out in brothels. He was forced to flee after attacking a teacher who questioned his habit of spending the afternoons with his pupils, according to Francesco Susinno, a priest, painter and biographer of local painters.
Andrew GrahamDixon, the author of one of the most recent biographies of Caravaggio, lends credence to the story.
Graham-Dixon, who sets out to debunk the myth of Caravaggio as a gay countercultural figure, sums up his sexuality as follows: Caravaggio was capable of being aroused by the physical presence of other men. He could not have painted such figures in the way that he did if that were not so. But he was equally attracted to women, as certain other painting from the late s, such as the transfixing St Catherine of Alexandria, plainly demonstrate. Figures like Saint Sebastian, although depicted half-naked and imbued with sexuality and physical potency, were produced in a completely different context to their Renaissance counterparts.
The Counter-Reformation redefined both the images and the functions of saints. In a period in which outbreaks of the plague were less frequent and Christian images were designed to be, above all, educational, Saint Sebastian became a model of martyrdom and Christian death. In his depictions, eros thus gave way to agape: unconditional, reflexive and sacrificial love of God.
We cannot help interpreting it erotically because of the visual poetry we find in the pose.
They made him their patron saint and assembled and commissioned many images of him. There is another aspect of this work that cannot be considered of minor importance: it was the first commission the Barberini family gave to a young Bernini and marked the start of what would be a prosperous working relationship that changed the appearance of Rome forever when Maffeo Barberini became the powerful Urban VIII and Bernini one of his chief architects.
Although Bernini was famous for his many mistresses, various documents attest to the shadow of sodomy that hovered over him. Then there was the episode involving his own brother and right-hand man, Luigi Bernini, whose expertise as an engineer contributed to the flourishing of his own art.
Although Roman society was scandalised and Gian Lorenzo, whose influence was beginning to wane, had to return the favours in the form of artworks, the history of his brother Luigi went down in the legal annals of a city where cases of sodomy were tried between and According to Richard A. Kaye in his study of how Saint Sebastian became a gay icon, in the nineteenth century the saint took on a new quality: depravity. While leading Victorian religious thinkers attempted to masculinise the saint, an army of decadent artists were eager to turn him into an icon of vice and corruption.
Throughout the twentieth century, Saint Sebastian stood apart from other homosexual myths like Hadrian and Antinous, Corydon and Alexis, Damon and Pythias, Theseus and Pirithous, Zeus and Ganymede, and David and Jonathan in that his story is not one of a shared passion but one of individual martyrdom: a martyrdom caused by a confession — that of his faith. But his appearance is not that of a man of great physical strength capable of slaying a giant; instead, his youth, pale skin and face with fleshy lips, pale eyes and soft, shiny hair convey an androgynous image.
There are undoubtedly certain elements in this work, certain clues, that do not go unnoticed to an eye accustomed to searching for cultural references: the androgyny of the sitter, the sensuality of the oriental robes and the bouquet of flowers he holds, which can be interpreted as a sexual invitation but, above all, the profound silence that emanates from it.
Born in Brussels in to a rich Flemish merchant, he was christened and raised as a Catholic, and the earliest known reference to him as an artist cites him as being in Rome in to study classical art. There, always guided by a marked individuality, he kept a reasonable distance from the Academy and its subjects and techniques as well as from the group of northern European expats, the so-called bentvueghels bamboccianti who portrayed street scenes and folk types.
According to Claude J. Summers, the execution may have been a warning to the community of artists entrusted with creating Counter-Reformation art to avoid engaging in improper conduct. Around this time Sweerts converted to a more fervent immersion in his faith and decided to embark on a voyage to China as a missionary.
Daphne G. Estwick (Author of Arms Out Palms Open)
Myths, which are regarded as timeless or eternal stories, have been used over the centuries to explain, illustrate or account for a great variety of themes: from political power to same-sex attraction, as we find in this picture where the love story of Apollo and Hyacinthus is set in the eighteenth century. Let us briefly recall the story: like Adonis and Ganymede, Hyacinthus was a young and beautiful mortal who enamoured gods. In this case it was Apollo who was captivated by Hyacinthus, whom he accidently killed with a discus that was deflected by Zepyrus, the god of the west wind — who, according to some versions, was also in love with the boy.
According to the story, reddish hyacinths sprang from his spilt blood. In the baron, who was 28 at the time, was living in Venice to complete his humanistic grounding as part of the Grand Tour. Tiepolo specialists like Keith Christiansen point out that the death of the Spanish musician in was fundamental to the genesis of the painting. The Grand Tour was a trip to southern Europe, chiefly Italy, designed as a rite of passage to maturity for young upperclass men of northern Europe in the eighteenth century.
It usually lasted a couple of years and allowed young men — intellectuals, artists and nobles, always accompanied by a tutor — to further their education through first-hand contact with the classical sources. It also provided plenty of opportunities to meet people, enjoy the milder climate, buy antiques and become initiated into sex, be it with men or women. According to Jeremy Black in his book on the Grand Tour, in countries like England and Germany and in the upper echelons of society — where marriage had a powerful economic component and was governed by strict rules — these trips were considered to entail considerable freedoms and risks.
One of the main hazards was homosexuality, which in England was held to be a foreign vice originating in the Mediterranean, especially Italy, as explained in the treatise of the day Plain Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy. The degree of sexual freedom in this painting is, however, fairly unusual. Furthermore, the very political tensions that did away with Grand Tours — that is, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars — led to the decriminalisation of sodomy: in the reformist Condorcet, but also Montesquieu, Voltaire and Jeremy Bentham, proposed abolishing the punishments, and this proposal was legally adopted in France in The Napoleonic penal code, which maintained the abolition, spread across Europe after its enactment in He thus steeped everyday experiences in the big city in the grandeur that art had previously reserved for the great heroic stories of the past.
Modern life was embodied by new relationships, new places and new ways of looking at things and of being seen. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Usually ships within 1 week. Overview In this adaptation of her dissertation, Estwick focuses generally on aspects of contemporary American religion and more particularly on the resolution of conflicts surrounding gay inclusion. For instance, some sociologists research macro-structures that organize society, such as race or ethnicity , social class , gender , and institutions such as the family.
Other sociologists study social processes that represent the breakdown of macro-structures, including deviance , crime , and divorce. Additionally, some sociologists study micro-processes such as interpersonal interactions and the socialization of individuals. It should also be noted that recent sociologists, taking cues from anthropologists, have realized the Western emphasis of the discipline. In response, many sociology departments around the world are now encouraging multi-cultural research. The next two chapters in this book will introduce the reader to more extensive discussions of the methods and theory employed in sociology.
The remaining chapters are examinations of current areas of research in the discipline. Berger, Peter L Garden City, New York: Anchor.