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Pederasty in the Renaissance

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The Renaissance, inspired by the rediscovery of the philosophy and art of the Classical period, was also a new dawn for homoerotic expression. A male's desire for another male was primarily constructed as an adult's desire for an adolescent, beardless youth. Consequently, pederastic aesthetics influenced art and literature throughout Europe.[1]

Among the luminaries of the time who praised or depicted romantic liaisons with youths were Marsilio Ficino, Benvenuto Cellini, and Leonardo da Vinci. A philosophic defense — possibly tongue-in-cheek — of the practice was provided by Antonio Rocco, in his infamous L'Alcibiade, fanciullo a scola (Alcibiades the Schoolboy) a reasoned polemic in which a schoolmaster gradually overcomes his handsome pupil's objections to carnal relations.

The ChurchEdit

At the same time, the Catholic Church, working through the Inquisition courts as well as through the civil judiciary, used every means at its disposal to fight what it considered to be the "corruption of sodomy". Men were fined or jailed; boys were flogged. The harshest punishments, such as burning at the stake, were usually reserved for crimes committed against the very young, or by violence. Not infrequently this was an internecine struggle, as those pursued were often enough men of the cloth.[citation needed] At the time of the Fifth Council of the Lateran the "monkish canonist" Bermondus Choveronius attacked pederasty,[citation needed] claiming that because of the diversion of seed from procreation a pederast "destroys the whole human race." Jeremy Bentham was to refute him later, denouncing celibacy as a much greater danger in that respect, with Father Bermondus being thus a much greater criminal than any pederast.[2]

Florentine pederastyEdit

File:Donatello david plaster replica front left 1000px wide.jpg

Florence in particular was famous for its high incidence of pederasty.[citation needed] So widespread was the practice that in 1432 the city established "Gli Ufficiali di Notte" (The Officers of the Night) to root out the practice of sodomy. From that year until 1502, the number of men charged with sodomy numbered greater than 17,000, of which 3,000 were convicted. The prevalence of pederasty in Renaissance Florence is perhaps best conveyed by the fact that the Germans adopted the word Florenzer, when they were talking about a pederast.[3][4] The Italians however noticed the tastes of their visitors. As a result, the Neapolitans when speaking of pederasty, called it Il vizio inglese, "the English vice".[5] The English, not to be outdone, blamed the "corruption" on the French and the Italians: Jonathan Swift, in his satire, A Tale of a Tub, posits a great academy consisting of "first, a large pederastic school, with French and Italian masters."

The first great collection of homoerotic verse in modern times was authored by Michelangelo, who beside his three hundred-odd poems to Tommaso Cavalieri also penned fifty poetic epitaphs for the sixteen year old Cecchino de'Bracci.

The prevalence of pederastic relations gave rise to a number of proverbs illuminating the views of the common people towards the practice. Among them are If you crave joys, tumble some boys. [6] and It is as dangerous to turn your back to a painter as to share his bed, a facetious saying among the common people mentioned by Ludovico Ariosto in his Satires

Northern EuropeEdit

File:Rembrandt - Ganymede.jpg

Pederastic love was also featured in the work of artists such as Johann Sebastian Bach in the air of Phoebus-Apollo dedicated to young Hyacinth, in his secular cantata BWV 201, Geschwinde, ihr wirbelnden Winde (Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan) [The contest between Phoebus and Pan].[citation needed] Other artistic representations of pederasty reflected an unfavorable light upon it. In that category are Albrecht Durer’s 1494 ‘’Death of Orpheus.’’ and Rembrandt’s 1635 Rape of Ganymede, which satirizes the love of boys, turning the youth into a squalling toddler urinating in fright and the lover into a bird of prey.[citation needed]

See also Edit

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NotesEdit

  1. Simons, Patricia, European Art: Renaissance in glbtq. "The most conventional object of homoerotic desire was the adolescent youth, usually imagined as beardless."[1]
  2. Jeremy Bentham, Offences Against One's Self in Journal of Homosexuality, v.3:4(1978), p.389-405; continued in v.4:1(1978)[2]
  3. Rocke, Michael, (1996), Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and male Culture in Renaissance Florence, ISBN 978-0195122923
  4. Ruggiero, Guido, (1985), The Boundaries of Eros, ISBN 978-0195056969
  5. R. F. Burton, Terminal Essay
  6. Florentine proverb, ca. 1480. After Sabadino degli Arienti in Le Porretane.Michael Rocke, Forbidden friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence, Oxford, 1996; p.87

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