March 6, 1475, Michelangelo, probably the most famous artist to ever live, entered this world. He would go on to create such time-honoured art as the Statue of David and the paintings adorning the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo loved men. He lavished the Sistine Chapel with depictions of the male form. A child looking up at those paintings might wonder if women and girls existed in biblical times. Even when he deigned to portray women, Michelangelo painted men with hair extensions.
Yet strangely, still today, some would deny his sexuality.
That happens partly because of legal prohibitions against homosexuality both in the artist’s lifetime and the centuries that followed. Michelangelo risked jail or worse if he admitted he liked to do more than depict male bodies. He also, like so many others, became worried about his immortal soul as he grew older. In his old age, he became more religious.
The Great Cancellation
Then, there’s the age-old issue of historical erasure. Cancel culture is nothing new. Throughout history, it was the people with power who controlled how history was compiled and curated. They inevitably cancelled anything that negated their preferred narrative. And the preferred narrative nearly always portrayed anyone who did not conform to prevailing norms as belonging to a small group of aberrant individuals.
Michelangelo wrote of his romantic feelings for males in letters, sonnets and madrigals. But when his grandnephew published his poems years after his death, he changed the gender of the pronouns from masculine to feminine. As Rictor Norton (who we all should read more of) points out, that means something.
“Michelangelo the Younger’s action proves that the hetero/homo divide was not only relevant but important for him and his Renaissance contemporaries.”
Even following the restoration of the original pronouns in 1893, some continue to insist the great artist was not gay.
Michaelangelo’s poems, they insist, represent “an emotionless and elegant re-imagining of Platonic dialogue, whereby erotic poetry was seen as an expression of refined sensibilities.”
My own elegant re-imagining of Platonic dialogue would go something like ‘What a load of old shit!’
Have a look at the sculptures and the paintings, read Rictor Norton, and make up up your own mind. Don’t just swallow the bleatings of our heterosexual lords and masters, happy to claim Michelangelo’s artistic heritage while studiously ignoring his obvious sexuality.