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European Art: Baroque  
 
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The politically influential Giustiniani and del Monte helped Caravaggio to obtain prestigious commissions for large religious narrative scenes. In such paintings as The Ecstasy of Saint Francis (ca 1597) and his first version of Saint Matthew Inspired by an Angel (1602), Caravaggio visualized spiritual rapture with queer erotic imagery; both these paintings show beautiful angels tenderly embracing the saints.

Caravaggio's religious paintings frequently provoked controversy and censorship. In the later part of his career, Caravaggio painted fewer mythological themes, but he did produce Victorious Love (1603) as a tribute to Giustiniani. In a scene at once playful and profound, an adolescent Cupid (clearly based on a famous work of another subject by an earlier gay artist, Michelangelo) tramples on books, instruments, and other symbols of human achievement.

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Ambiguous feelings about sexuality may be expressed both here and in David with the Head of Goliath (ca 1610). In the latter painting, the youthful hero extends out to the viewer the decapitated head of the artist. By revealing both the problems and joys of love, Caravaggio succeeded in representing queer sexualities with the emotional complexity and richness that was otherwise reserved in the Baroque era for depictions of heterosexual desire.

Caravaggio's great stylistic innovations influenced the work of many later Baroque painters. However, his followers consistently painted scenes without any overt indications of homoerotic desire. Thus, for example, the Dutch artist Hendrick Ter Brugghen (1588-1629), who had been deeply impressed by the works of Caravaggio that he studied in Rome, changed the gender of Caravaggio's Bacchus in order to produce the "heterosexualized" Bacchanate and the Ape (1627).

The Execution of Duquesnoy

The execution of the Belgian sculptor Jérôme Duquesnoy the Younger (1602-1654) must have served as a warning to other artists about the consequences of any "improprieties" in their lifestyles or their works. Although his reputation is today eclipsed by that of his elder brother, François, Jérôme Duquesnoy was widely regarded as a prominent sculptor during his lifetime.

Having worked since 1621 in various cities in Italy and Spain, Jérôme Duquesnoy returned to his homeland in 1642, and he quickly obtained many prestigious commissions there. On August 31, 1654, he was arrested for sodomizing repeatedly over a period of several weeks two boys whom he had employed as models: Constant de Somere, aged eight, and Jacobus de Sterck, aged eleven.

Today, the artist undoubtedly would be accused of , but the ages of the boys do not seem to have been a factor in his trial, as there were no laws prohibiting adult sexual interaction with children.

After being tortured, Duquesnoy confessed to having intercourse with the boys. Antonius Triest, bishop of Ghent, and other prominent patrons unsuccessfully sought to have his sentence commuted from death to life imprisonment.

On September 1, however, Duquesnoy was killed by strangling, and his body was burned immediately afterward, in accord with usual practices at the time. As a result of his "crimes," his name was removed from many of his works, and his career literally was forgotten until recovered by dedicated twentieth-century scholars.

Duquesnoy's exuberant and appealing statues of young boys, such as Hercules Fighting with Serpents (ca 1650), attest to his sexual proclivities, which led to his downfall. In the Pietà (ca 1640), he envisioned a beautiful young angel, passionately kissing the arm of a sensual Christ.

In contrast to most male artists of the Baroque, Duquesnoy depicted female figures with notable restraint and dignity; his meditative statues of Mary Magdalene, such as The Magdalene Reading (ca 1650) evoke sympathy for a woman who had been condemned because of her sensuality.

Persecution and Negative Representations

Unfortunately, Duquesnoy's fate was not unusual. In 1570, even the comparatively tolerant States of Holland instituted laws that required that anyone convicted of sodomy be executed in truly comprehensive fashion by being (successively) strangled, burned, and drowned with a two-hundred pound weight attached to the neck.

During the seventeenth century, these laws were only sporadically enforced, but in the early 1730s, men suspected of having committed sodomy were systematically hunted down and punished throughout the United Provinces of the Netherlands. In 1730 and 1731 alone, over two-hundred and fifty cases of sodomy were tried in Dutch courts; virtually all of these involved more than one man (eighteen in one proceeding).

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