More Queer Noise


Hand In Glove (1973) by The Smiths, 7″ single.

This celebrated pair of buttocks turned up in the inbox this week, courtesy of a news mail from the Manchester District Music Archive announcing their Queer Noise website, an online exhibition exploring LGBT music and club culture in Greater Manchester. It was just over a year ago that I designed a poster for the Queer Noise music event which preceded the online collection; writer and journalist Jon Savage was the host that evening and he’s provided an intro for the site. And speaking of queer noises, I’ve been told recently that John Gill’s 1995 book of that name, Queer Noises: Male and Female Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Music is shortly to be republished in an updated edition. No further details as yet.


Meanwhile, back at the buttocks, it seems that Morrissey swiped his cover photo for the first Smiths single from The Nude Male (1978) by Margaret Walters. I have that very book so here is that very photo, an impressive study by beefcake photographer Jim French.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Queer Noise in Manchester
Queer Noise and the Wolf Girl
The fascinating phallus
Queer Noises

Michelangelo’s Dream


The Dream of Human Life by Michelangelo (1533).

Michelangelo was of course homosexual. That obvious fact still needs restating, simply because generations of art historians have been embarrassed by it. Attempts to deal with the subject have a certain comic interest. E. H. Ramsden, who translated Michelangelo’s letters, refutes the slur of homosexuality with a resounding old-fashioned “Tush!” Anthony Burgess gives an equally Victorian shudder over the David, “so epicene that it invokes unpleasing visions of Michelangelo slavering over male beauty.” Many nineteenth century critics denied him any sexuality at all, apparently preferring a eunuch to a deviant; and even today, it is a common ploy to argue that his genius inhabits some transcendently bisexual—and therefore nonsexual—realm. The evidence for his homosexual loves is too strong to be denied, particularly in the letters to and about one of his models Febo di Poggio, and those about the fifteen-year-old Cecchino de’ Bracci. And it is immediately obvious in his art.

So writes Margaret Walters in The Nude Male: A New Perspective (1978). Appraisals of the great artist’s sexuality have thrown off the prudery in the past thirty years, and a new exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, London, looks directly at Michelangelo’s attraction to young men. The central work is The Dream of Human Life (or The Dream), one of a number of drawings Michelangelo presented to Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, a Roman nobleman and (we’re told) very handsome youth he met in 1532. No pictures of Cavalieri exist, unfortunately, so we have to take his good looks on trust but it’s unlikely that a 57-year-old artist would have plied a boy with beautiful drawings and hundreds of love poems without good reason. Guardian critic Jonathan Jones has a book about Michelangelo published soon and he writes enthusiastically about the exhibition:

The Courtauld Gallery, that sombre, academic institution, dares to go where Irving Stone never went in his bestselling novel about Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy. It refutes, with all the authority at its command, centuries of bowdlerisation that have left the nude saints in Michelangelo’s painting The Last Judgment still – in 2010 – emasculated by prudish drapes. It gives us the unmade movie Michelangelo in Love, pouring out his soul in art and verse to a handsome youth whose beauty crystallised all the longings inherent in Michelangelo’s art ever since he carved his teenage masterpiece The Battle of the Centaurs, with its vision of life as a tumult of wrestling male bodies. (More.)

Also on display are previously unexhibited handwritten poems. The Courtauld site has more details about Michelangelo’s Dream which runs from February 18 to May 16, 2010.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The fascinating phallus
Behold the (naked) man
Michelangelo revisited

Eros: From Hesiod’s Theogony to Late Antiquity


Man courting a boy at the palaestra (530–430 BCE).

Greek love seems to be the theme this week. Having been reading in Margaret Walters’s The Nude Male about the sodomitical habits of the Spartans (are you listening, Frank Miller?), and the general enthusiasm (a Greek term, incidentally) for the youthful male body, news arrives of an exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens “dedicated (to) Eros and its various manifestations in antiquity”.

There in three rooms reserved for artistic renditions of sexual congress, pederasty (socially accepted in ancient times), homoerotic love, and the quaintly named “bucolic love affair”, viewers are bombarded with what the ancients were clearly good at: being bawdy. From scenes of anal copulation to mutual oral sex, to lucky charms of giant phalluses and engravings of frenzied sex with the half-man, half beast satyrs and silens, Eros is depicted in all its glory.

“I delight in the prime of a boy at 12,” one scribe declares in a text highlighted on a wall. “One of 13 is much more desirable. He who is 14 is a still sweeter flower of the lovers. And one who is just beginning his 15th year is yet more delightful. The 16th year is that of the gods. And as for the 17th, it is not for me but for Zeus to seek it.”

Aristophanes, the 5th century BC comic, who embraced the obscene, devising 106 ways of describing the male genitals and 91 those of the female, would not have been disappointed. (More.)

There’s a catalogue available but their website is saying it’s out of stock at the moment. Eros: From Hesiod’s Theogony to Late Antiquity runs to April 5, 2010.

Sex and sanctity: Eros exhibition bares all in Athens

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The fascinating phallus
Hadrian and Greek love

The fascinating phallus


The latest used book purchase was this volume from 1978 and just the kind of unusual art book I enjoy finding. The witty cover design is by Patricia Pillay. Inside, Margaret Walters argues the necessity of her study by pointing out how little the male nude has been seriously studied in 20th century art history despite the form being a far more varied one than the female equivalent. The book is illustrated throughout (no colour plates, unfortunately) and looks like being a fascinating read, “fascinating” being an apt word as Walters notes in her introduction:

For the Romans Fascinus, the god of luck, was a personified phallus. (The modern word “fascinate” derives from the Latin word meaning enchant or charm; that magic power of warding off evil and attracting good fortune from the gods was the phallus.) In ancient Egypt, in classical Greece, all through the Roman world, phallic objects and figures abound. The phallus is carved in monumental stone, painted on domestic objects, worn as a charm (called fascinum) round the neck; herms, stone pillars with human heads and genitals, stood guarding crossroads and doorways.


Roman phallic amulets in the Musée Saint-Remi.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Triumph of the Phallus
Le Phallus phénoménal
Phallic bibelots
Phallic worship
The art of ejaculation