Michelangelo and Male Beauty

MichelangeloLast year, I focused on Elizabeth Barrett Browning, so I’ll be moving on. That’s kind of odd, because I’m not a huge fan of hers, although I do admire her work. But I am a big fan of Michelangelo who was born on this day in 1475. Last year, I wrote of him, “I still remember when I saw David for the first time in Florence. Up to that time, I had no idea that art could be that powerful.” Of course, I had seen pictures of it before. But as with most great art, representations of it are not the same. And for one thing, it is big—17 feet tall. It’s also quite clear where his sexual interests lay: with men. It is the ultimate representation of male beauty.

In fact, when he was 57, Michelangelo met Tommaso dei Cavalieri, who was 23 at the time. He wrote many explicit poems to the younger man and the two of them were friends until Michelangelo’s death 31 years later. Did they have a sexual relationship? We don’t know. Does it matter? Well, it has to a lot of people since then who have found it embarrassing. To me, it doesn’t matter in the least, except that I hope the great old man got a little in his golden years. But for those who hate the idea of homosexuality, it seems silly to care. I don’t care if artists I admire lived exemplary lives. It’s nice, of course. I prefer that “my” artists are decent people. But there is no indication that Michelangelo was anything but a nice guy. And even if Cavalieri wasn’t sexually interested, it still must have been flattering to be so admired by the great artist.

Michelangelo's David

Happy birthday Michelangelo!

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