User:Jahsonic/AHE/The love that dare not speak its name
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Title image Amor Vincit Omnia (Caravaggio)
Of the three Renaissance masters, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael Santi (1483-1520), two are homosexual. Only Raphael loves women. By the time Leonardo is 24, he is already involved in a sodomy trial. A special commission is created in Florence, the Officers of the Night, which scatter collection boxes throughout the city where people can anonymously denounce fellow citizens of crimes "against nature;" mainly meaning the severe but during the Italian Renaissance widespread offence of sodomy. In the years that the Officers of the Night are active - between 1432 and 1502 - 17,000 people are accused and 3,000 are convicted. So commonplace is this 'unnatural' act in Florence, that Germans adopted the slang term Florenzer, when they are talking about a homosexual man.
It is highly probable that many Florentines are falsely accused, but where there's smoke, there's fire, and Leonardo lands on the list of suspects. He is not convicted for lack of evidence, but today we know that after his trial Leonardo continues to entertain very intimate and lasting relationships with men, and one of his favourites is a certain Salaì, with whom he will be together for thirty years. Freud argues in his psychobiography, Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of His Childhood that the Renaissance master lived chastely for most of his life, but he deduces from Leonardo's paintings and notebooks that he was a latent homosexual. A homosexual who did not out himself. In the closet, as they say today.
Leonardo's X Portfolio, his collection of erotic drawings, features one of the only hard-ons (Image) of the Renaissance, and extremely beautiful at that. Art historians assume that the said member belongs to the favourite of Leonardo, Salaì, who was a bit of a Byron-type. When Leonardo lists his offences in one of his notebooks, he calls Salaì "a thief, a liar, stubborn, and a glutton." But beautiful he was, Vasari says of him that he was "a graceful and beautiful youth with curly hair."
Even more than about Leonardo, there is a consensus that Michelangelo was gay. Michelangelo's preference for the male nude is often explained - by historians who really ought to know better - by invoking the zeitgeist of the Renaissance, which idealizes the human body and especially the male body and elevates man to the measure of all things. But that is too facile an explanation for Michelangelo's artistic output. Not only does he give us the megalomaniac athletic statue of David, a gay icon if there ever was one, but he also fills the walls of the Sistine Chapel with nude male bodies, the so-called ignudi. And if one looks at his Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, it is striking that there is almost no woman in sight, and the rare women who are nonetheless featured, look more like female body-builders, with breasts that can hardly be called appetizing. The writer Aretino condemns the paintings and one pope even refuses to conduct mass in the building in what he calls a repugnant 'bathhouse full of nude bodies', unworthy as a church to honour God.
For an intimate glimpse of Michelangelo's sexuality, we must seek the help of his sketches, drawings and prints. I show two 'erotic cartoons', two preparatory sketches that Michelangelo makes for his pupil Tommaso dei Cavalieri, who despite the age difference - he is 23 when he meets the 57-year-old grandmaster - will become a faithful companion of Michelangelo until his death. These erotic cartoons depict the Rape of Ganymede[image] and The Punishment of Tityus (image). Both prints feature predatory birds attacking young unbearded men, the elongated necks of the birds are unmistakable phallic symbols.
Later Renaissancist artists - often classified as Mannerist or early Baroque - Pontormo, Cellini (image), Bronzino (Portrait of Andrea Doria as Neptune), Caravaggio (Bacchus, Boy Bitten by a Lizard, Sleeping Cupid) are also more inclined to their own than to the other sex. All produce homo-erotic work and they are often self-proclaimed lovers of sodomy. Or should we say pederasty, the form of love and education between older men and young boys which has been since ancient times a most common practice, regaining popularity during the Renaissance? All of these artists are known for having homosexual relations, many of them with young boys.
Of course, being gay is not necessarily a prerequisite to enjoy the hard muscles of a beautiful male body, nor to paint it. That sexual identity does not always matter, is proven by he brothers Agostino (1557-1602) and Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and their depiction of two quintessential macho archetypes, Pluto (Pluto) and Samson (Samson).
"Say ass, cock, cunt and screw," exclaimed Aretino at the beginning of the chapter on the Renaissance and that is exactly how the first libertine homosexuals felt. In a highly entertaining work, The Book of the Prick, written in the twenties of the sixteenth century by one Antonio Vignali (1501-1559), an older man (Arsiccio) explains a young boy (Sodo) that the latter is still very wet behind the ears and almost knows nothing of sexual matters. He is so ignorant that he does not even understand "why the balls never go either into the cunt or the asshole." The young man replies that his "philosophy does not deal with cocks and assholes," but the older man insists . The boy soon feels a petty amateur in the matters of love, a domain in which the older man is clearly an éminence grise.
Where the older man is actually after - you felt that coming - is to land the young man in bed as quickly as possible. He starts his argument with a defence of anal love by pointing out that the idea that anal intercourse is "against nature" is actually unknown to Nature herself. "If Mother Nature had not wanted that men sodomized each other, she would not have made the experience so delightful, or at the very least she would have ensured that it was physically impossible ... but in reality we see the opposite, since the anus receives the penis as easily as the vagina."
At this moment the young man begins to grasp it all, and being fertilized by the wisdom of the older man, it's time for him to be literally inseminated with knowledge.
"I haven't told you anything. Sodo. But before I go to bed, while I still have the energy for rational discussion, since we have entered into these matters, I would like to tell you — if sleep does not prevent me — about things in this world that, as you admit, you have little understood until now. Since I feel in the mood to talk, let's go to my house and go to bed together. And in that way, in bed, I will tell you some or all of the reasons that the balls stay outside the cunt. Those things that I can't tell you tonight we'll save for tomorrow morning." The next morning the old man explains why some cunts are more beautiful than others, why cunts can fart and why all cunts stink of shit. Not very edifying, but all this is told in a style modeled after Socratic dialogues, which gives the material a certain respectability. The icing on the cake is a story-within-a-story which explains why the balls have to remain outside of the cunt during intercourse. The story is set in an imaginary senate, a thinly veiled reference to the politics of Sienna of that time, the hometown of the author. That imaginary senate consists Cocks, Cunts, Assholes and Balls. The Cocks are the highest in standing.
The fable is about a world where the Big Cocks and Beautiful Cunts rule supreme and have dominion over the Little Cocks, the Ugly Cunts, the Assholes and the Balls, an allegorical representation of the world of alpha males and females. The Big Cocks have become so complacent that even the Beautiful Cunts turn away from them in alienation. The others are planning a revolt to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the Big Cocks. They seek to mobilize the support of the Balls and the Assholes. Although at first they are willing to participate in the revolution, the Balls, known for their cowardice, eventually betray the plot, leading to a massacre of the Little Dicks, Ugly Cunts and the Assholes. In the end, decimated but not eradicated, the Little Cocks, the Ugly Cunts and the Assholes win the battle and murder almost all Big Dicks and Beautiful Cunts. All that remains to be done is to think of an appropriate punishment for the Balls, villainous and most evil traitors.
Everyone gathers at the senate and one by one the victorious Cocks addresses the other genitals on the subject of a worthy punishment for the Balls. A Big Cock, Cazzatello, takes the stand. Known as "a very honest, wise and temperate cock," Cazzatello "begins his oration with a balanced and soothing tone, referring to his audience as 'Honorable brothers and sisters' and invokes the idea of justice and stable government over chaos. His words are particularly effective on the Assholes who "sigh with compassion at the beautiful and affectionate words of Cazzatello, to which they had listened with open-mouthed attention — it seemed that the wind had gone out of them." A similar description of the reaction of the Assholes and the Cunts follow when Cazzatello condemns the conspiracy of the genitals. It elicited "a strong threatening shudder from the Assholes and the grinding of the lips of the Cunts."
In the end, common sense prevails yet again and tranquility is restored among the victorious Cocks, Cunts, and Assholes by means of a judicious sentence to be meted out to the traitorous Balls. They are forever condemned to the rank of ineffectual witnesses to the coital act, and they are denied access to Cunts and Assholes forever.