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European Art: Baroque  
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The Patronage of Queen Christina

Through their patronage, a few wealthy and influential individuals were able to foster the visualization of queer ideals. Particularly notable in this regard is Queen Christina of Sweden (1618-1689), one of the most prominent patrons and collectors of the Baroque era, when women were allowed very few opportunities to influence the visual arts.

Abdicating her throne in 1654, Christina moved to Rome, where she devoted herself to the patronage of the arts. Her collection prominently featured an exceptionally large number of erotic paintings of women, including Correggio's sexually explicit Leda (1520) and Annibale Carracci's Danae (1605), as well as many pieces by Titian (for example, Venus Crowned by Amor with a Lute Player, 1545) and Veronese (Mars and Venus, 1570, among other works). The display of these paintings in the public rooms of the Casino Riario was strongly condemned by many commentators throughout her years in Rome.

Christina further challenged the gender norms of her era by wearing men's clothing; she was often portrayed in attire that combined "male" and "female" elements (as by Wolfgang Heimbach, 1656). Rumors circulated by opponents maintained that she had affairs with her lady-in-waiting and other women, although firm documentation for these suppositions is lacking.

Mainstream scholars generally insist that she can not be regarded as a lesbian. Nevertheless, her extensive collection of intensely erotic images of women provides compelling evidence that she sought to define an identity that we can recognize as queer. As is often the case, art provides significant and compelling insights into sexuality and other aspects of personality that may not be explicitly stated in written documentation.

Richard G. Mann

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arts >> Overview:  European Art: Renaissance

The various cultural patterns, especially the conditions of artistic production and the types of subjects and themes represented, provide a great deal of evidence about Renaissance sexuality and art.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Ganymede

Since antiquity Ganymede, the beautiful Phrygian youth abducted by Jupiter, has served as an artistic expression for homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: St. Sebastian

Sebastian's broad and long-standing presence in queer artistic production suggests that he functions as an emblem of the feelings of shame, rejection, inverted desire, and loneliness endured by queer people in a homophobic society.

arts >> Borghese, Scipione Caffarelli

Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, a seventeenth-century Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, was a bold and influential patron and collector of the visual arts.

arts >> Caravaggio

The most original painter of early seventeenth-century Europe, Caravaggio imbues his art with homoeroticism.

social sciences >> Christina of Sweden

Enigmatic monarch and enthusiastic patron of the arts, Christina of Sweden shocked Europeans by her aversion to marriage, her "mannish" ways, and her love for women, as well as by the abdication of her throne at the age of twenty-seven.

arts >> Correggio (Antonio Allegri)

One of the most innovative Italian painters of the sixteenth century, Corregio (Antonio Allegri) devised a highly original manner than anticipates the Baroque style of the seventeenth century.

arts >> Duquesnoy, Jérôme

Flemish artist Jérôme (Hieronymus) Duquesnoy was one of the most renowned sculptors of the seventeenth century, but for decades after his death he was best known for his conviction and execution on charges of sodomy.

arts >> Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)

One of the leading Italian painters of the seventeenth century, Guercino fused spirituality and homoerotic desire in his paintings of religious subjects.

arts >> Michelangelo Buonarroti

The most famous artist who ever lived, Michelangelo left an enormous legacy in sculpture, painting, drawing, architecture, and poetry; while the artist's sexual behavior cannot be documented, the homoerotic character of his drawings, letters, and poetry is unmistakable.


Davis, Whitney, ed. Gay and Lesbian Studies in Art History. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1994.

Dynes, Wayne R., and Stephen Donaldson, eds. Homosexuality and Homosexuals in the Arts. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.

Hammill, Graham L. Sexuality and Form. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1999.

Spear, Richard E. The "Divine" Guido: Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: European Art: Baroque  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated September 2, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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