glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

European Art: Medieval  
page: 1  2  3  


The no man's land of queer medieval art may be considerably richer than is generally recognized. In terms of coverage alone, the examples cited here embrace several media, extend from one end of the Middle Ages to the other, and cover a broad geographic area.

The scholarship suggests, further, that notions of sexual identity prevalent today had limited relevance a thousand years ago; more important was the idea that sexual behavior outside marriage and procreation violated a moral principle, although the principle in question varied widely, allowing medieval artists to link same-sex sexual acts to idolatry, heresy, greed, and the like.

Given this diversity, the depiction of homosexuality never hardened into a formula: hyenas, kissing women, copulating men, sufferers in Hell, and possibly chess-players represent many different ways of evoking the sin. Well-known themes such as Ganymede and Zeus also accommodated various readings according to the degree, or absence, of Christian allegory.

Much work remains to be done. Early medieval art, secular art, lesbianism, patronage, and reception are areas in particular need of study. The gradual opening of modern society to homosexuality, however, has also opened a window onto medieval art that previous generations had shut tight. As scholarship has come out of the closet, a new way of looking at the past has become possible.

William J. Travis

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts

   Related Entries
literature >> Overview:  The Bible

Perhaps no other book has been more influential--for better or worse--in determining the construction of gay and lesbian identity in the modern world, as well as social attitudes toward homosexuality, than the Bible.

literature >> Overview:  Classical Mythology

The Greco-Roman myths concerning same-sex love have been of crucial importance to the Western gay and lesbian literary heritage, both as texts and as icons.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Medieval

Although it occasionally celebrates homosocial bonding, surviving medieval English literature is condemnatory of homosexual behavior.

social sciences >> Overview:  Europe: Medieval

Although historical sources are comparatively scanty, they do indicate that homosexual behavior occurred throughout the period, and they give insight into its forms and the varying attitudes toward it.

social sciences >> Overview:  Natural Law

Natural law--the reading into nature laws that are not merely descriptive, but prescriptive--actually depends on circular reasoning; it discovers in nature what its adherents already believe is the intention of the Christian God.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

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.

literature >> Dante Alighieri

In the Divine Comedy Dante treats male homosexuality first as violence against God and then more sympathetically as merely one of the kinds of love.


Bynum, Caroline Walker. Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

Camille, Michael. The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-making in Medieval Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

_____. Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.

_____. The Medieval Art of Love: Objects and Subjects of Desire. New York: Abrams, 1998.

Forsyth, Ilene. "The Ganymede Capital at Vézelay." Gesta 15.1-2 (1976): 241-246.

Foucault, Michel. Histoire de la sexualité. Vol. 1. Paris: Gallimard, 1976.

Hergemöller, Bernd-Ulrich. "Homosexuelles Alltagsleben im Mittelalter." Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung 5.2 (1992): 111-127.

Kempter, Gerda. Ganymed: Studien zur Typologie, Ikonologie und Ikonographie. Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau, 1980.

Lochrie, Karma. "Mystical Arts, Queer Tendencies." Constructing Medieval Sexuality. Karma Lochrie et al., eds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. 180-200.

Mathews, Thomas F. The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Randall, Lillian. Images in the Margins of Gothic Manuscripts. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.

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

Steinberg, Leo. The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion. New York: Pantheon, 1983.

Tammen, Silke. "Bilder der Sodomie in der Bible Moralisée." Frauen Kunst Wissenshaft 21 (1996): 30-48.

Trexler, Richard C. "Gendering Jesus Crucified." Iconography at the Crossroads. Brendan Cassiday, ed. Princeton, N. J.: Index of Christian Art, 1993. 107-120.

Wolfthal, Diane. Images of Rape: The "Heroic" Tradition and Its Alternatives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.


    Citation Information
    Author: Travis, William J.  
    Entry Title: European Art: Medieval  
    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 14, 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.  


This Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.