Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Renaissance artist Michelangelo (1475-1564) was born in Florence as Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. His statue of David (1504) in Florence and his frescoes in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel (1512), which took four years to complete, are among the most famous works of art in the western world. He worked until a few days before his death at the age of eighty-eight, leaving an important legacy in sculpture, painting, drawing, and architecture. So great was his fame that he was the first Western artist of whom a biography was published during his lifetime.

Many of his drawings, paintings and sculptures are of a homoerotic nature, and he had relationships with many of his young models: Gherardo Perini, the nobleman Tommaso Cavalieri, Cecchino dei Bracci and a young male prostitute by the name of Febo di Poggio. He referred to Febo as a “little blackmailer,” because Febo demanded money, clothes, and assorted gifts in return for his love. Perini lived with Michelangelo for more than ten years. Bracci was only thirteen when the sixty-six year old Michelangelo fell in love with him. Two years later, when Bracci died, Michelangelo was so devastated that he wrote epitaphs for the youth’s tomb for an entire year, such as this example:

The earthy flesh, and here my bones,
Deprived of handsome eyes, and charming air,
Do yet attest how gracious I was in bed,
When he embraced, in whom my soul now lives.

Well, there you have it. Michelangelo’s correspondence, poetry and diaries that refer to his passion for young men were suppressed for centuries, and his love poems written to Cavalieri were censored by his publisher, who changed the gender from male to female in order to avoid scandal. Michelangelo was himself quite secretive, burning all of his personal drawings and papers before he died. In one sonnet Michelangelo wrote that the highest form of love cannot be for a woman, because “a woman is not worthy of a wise and virile heart.”

Michelangelo painted and sculpted a lot of beefcake. The Sistine Chapel ceiling is awash in paired male nudes. There are 48 naked boys depicting cherubs alongside 24 mostly naked youths, 16 adult male nudes supporting the Medallions, 16 bronze male nudes flanking the Ancestors, plus the famous 20 Ignudi (seated males) depicted as young, completely naked men. None of these figures has any relevance to a Christian narrative. They are on the ceiling because Michelangelo was besotted with masculinity. Pure and simple. Even his female figures had rather masculine bodies, differentiated from the men only by their longer hair.

After 1534, Michelangelo turned his attention almost exclusively to architecture. He became the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which had already been under construction for forty years. The massive dome he designed for St. Peter’s is among the greatest architectural and engineering feats of its time; Michelangelo’s red chalk drawing of its trademark radial columns was not unearthed in the Vatican archives until 2007.

No comments:

Post a Comment