Monday, January 08, 2007

Was Michelangelo a Homosexual?

Anti-Catholic polemicist Steve Hays recently wrote:
Given that Michelangelo was a notorious homosexual whose art reflects his homoerotic fixation, Dave's illustration is a queer choice to prove his point.

(comment of 1-8-07)
So was he or wasn't he? Particularly, Catholics want to know if he was a practicing homosexual (which is where the bulk of the sinfulness lies). I don't know one way or another, myself, but I highly suspect that his case might be one of many that radical homosexual activists (who notoriously butcher biblical texts also) have chosen to distort historical evidence and fact. Basically, they conclude that anyone who was single may have been a homosexual. Cardinal Newman is one oft-cited example that comes to mind right away. Does anyone argue that Michelangelo was not a homosexual, with solid reasoning?

I found a review by Loren Partridge (Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2, Summer, 1984, pp. 269-271), of Robert S. Liebert's book, Michelangelo: A Psychoanalytic Study of His Life and Images (New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 1983). Unfortunately, access is limited, but the Google blurb which led me to it cited Partridge as follows: "Liebert argues persuasively that Michelangelo was probably not an active homosexual. This is a refreshing corrective . . ."

James H. Beck is the author of Three Worlds of Michelangelo (Norton: 1999). A review in Axiom News, 25th February, 1999, page 9 states:
Artist and gay icon Michelangelo may not have been gay according to a controversial new study into his life and works. James Beck, author of the study and specialist in Renaissance art at Columbia University, claims that his lack of sexual activity was more to do with a fear of sexually transmitted diseases, a dislike of sex in general and devotion to his family, rather than any homosexual tendency.

His study, Three Worlds of Michelangelo states: "Michelangelo may have never married out of distaste for the sexual act."

Professor Beck said: "The fact that he admired and rendered marvellous images of young men cannot be used as evidence of real or latent homosexuality. As female models were very rare, Michelangelo based his rendering on males, usually his studio boys, as was customary."
Patricia Fortini Brown, in her review of the same book in The New York Times, wrote:
And what about his much discussed sexual orientation? While allowing that his celebration of the male nude extended to a masculinization of his female subjects, Beck denies that Michelangelo was a homosexual, ''closet or otherwise.'' Nor was he particularly attracted to women. According to the author, the sparse evidence suggests that the artist ''had few, if any, sexual experiences.'' Passion he had, but it was directed toward his art.
An article in the evangelical magazine, Christian History & Biography, "Larger Than Life," by Laurel Gasque (8-17-06), denies the common assertion of Michelangelo's homosexuality:
Around the time he was painting The Last Judgment, Michelangelo, now nearly 60, met two people who would have a profound personal impact on his life and faith: Tommaso de' Cavalieri (1516–1574) and Vittoria Colonna (1492-1547).

By all accounts, both Cavalieri and Colonna were of outstanding character and intelligence. Both came from ancient families. Tommaso was beautiful in appearance. Vittoria, widow of the Marchese of Pescara, radiated the inner beauty of a devout heart. Both inspired adoration in Michelangelo. In his own words, "Whenever I see someone who is good for something, who shows some power of the mind, who can do or say something better than the others, I am compelled to fall in love with him, and give myself to him as booty, so that I am no longer my own, but all his."

Words like these taken at face value (with little consideration for the ambiguity in the use of pronouns in Italian), along with his friendship with Cavalieri, have caused many people in recent times to argue that Michelangelo was a homosexual. Some of his own contemporaries suspected him of this, and he denied the charge.

His poetry attests to the fact that he was no stranger to lust and guilt, whether from acts or thoughts alone. The conflict between his deep admiration for earthly beauty and his yearning for a love that transcended physical desires - "the tension between nature passionately loved and grace passionately longed for," as Dixon puts it - was a source of tortuous inner struggles. However, as Michelangelo scholars John W. Dixon [possibly referring to the book, The Christ of Michelangelo] and James Beck have argued, there is no historical evidence that he ever had sexual relations with anyone, man or woman. He claimed he was married only to his art.

Loving others, for Michelangelo, was a way of loving God. Cavalieri and Colonna brought him nearer to Christ. In a madrigal addressed to Colonna, he wrote, "In your face I aspire to what I am pledged from heaven."
Is the above information all nonsense? Is it believable and credible? Can Steve Hays produce solid research for the contrary assertion? Or is his statement drawn mostly or solely from "certain knowledge" gleaned from only a fleeting acquaintance with the subject matter? Perhaps because all the so-called "gay" activists claim Michelangelo as their own, Steve accepts this without doing any research himself (as a way to run down the Catholic Church - and its art -: one of his favorite pastimes)?

You be the judge. It seems to me that this is likely yet another of the innumerable commonly-accepted myths and fairy-tales that non-Christian secularists with an agenda wish to see promulgated and assumed without argument. I don't know enough to render a definite, strongly-held opinion, but it looks that way, based on similar myths and propaganda that I have observed time and again.



Anchorite said...

I think you are right here. I am thinking of writing a small note aboutthe same subject myself. Especially how it relates to Michelangelo's art...

Dave Armstrong said...

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Betty L. Johnson said...

I think it is obvious that Michael Angelo was a homosexual. It shows clearly in his art and his deep admiration and attention to the male body- I believe also, that his famous cystine chapel painting shows a male reaching out for another male- but being sadly distanced- but the 'desire' is there. If he denied it, in that age- it was most likely because homosexuality was punished by imprisonment.

Re said...

That is G-d creating Adam and maybe G-d was hesitant to let Adam go, which is the sadly distant look. Also, you should read the article. Female models were rare. That's why he sculpted men. I think the female form is beautiful, but I'm not a lesbian. It doesn't matter anyway and we weren't there 500 years ago to know for sure.