Uranian inspirations


left: Sicilian boy by Wilhelm von Gloeden (no date); right: Jugend cover by Hans Christiansen (1896).

My current reading is The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (2003), a long and fascinating study by Neil McKenna which attempts to disentangle the true nature of Wilde’s sex life from the myths and evasions of his biography and biographers. Among the pictures in the book, McKenna shows a couple of the “Uranian” photographs by Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856–1931) which Wilde owned. Von Gloeden’s views of naked Sicilian boys were described as “Classical” in a barely-believable subterfuge familiar during the 19th century, and it’s understandable why Wilde, who’d been praising the attractions of Mediterranean youth for most of his adult life, would have found these pictures worthy of purchase. Wikimedia Commons has a substantial set of the photos, although it should be noted that provenance is often uncertain; there were other photographers active in Taormina at the time who catered to a similar market. One photo in particular stood out recently when I recognised it as the possible source for the figure on a Hans Christiansen cover for Jugend magazine of 1896. The cover above has appeared here before but this is the first time I made the photographic connection.


left: Jeune homme assis au bord de la mer by Jean Hippolyte Flandrin (1836); right: Cain by Wilhelm von Gloeden (c. 1902).

Gloeden, of course, was one of the first people to use the Flandrin pose, as I noted in the original post on that theme. I wonder if he knew he’d been copied in turn? That Jugend cover and its inspiration reminds me a little of Flandrin’s other depiction of Classical youth, his portrait of Polites, a painting which Oscar would no doubt have enjoyed.


Polites, Son of Priam, Observes the Movements of the Greeks by Jean Hippolyte Flandrin (1834).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The recurrent pose archive
The Oscar Wilde archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Forbidden Colours
Jugend Magazine
Evolution of an icon