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Greco, El (Domenicos Theotocopoulos) (1541-1614)  
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Several subtle references in documents relating to El Greco affairs hint at the closeness of their relationship, although we, of course, have no firm proof about what they did in the "matrimonial bed" listed in the detailed inventory of El Greco's estate. Because was routinely punished by execution in Counter Reformation Spain, it is unlikely that any complete details of their relationship will be forthcoming.

El Greco's depictions of the nude male figure are infused with intense sensual energy, as one can note in examining his many paintings of such religious subjects as Saint Sebastian and Christ on the Cross, as well his occasional representations of mythological themes, such as Laocoön (1610).

In contrast, he depicted women with restraint and dignity, unusual among male Renaissance artists. In this regard, one can consider, in particular, his numerous images of Mary Magdalen, who was normally characterized as an object of erotic desire.

Although academic scholars have continued to insist on Theotocopoulos' strict heterosexuality, several avant-garde artists and writers, active in the mid-twentieth century, asserted that he was gay. Even the often Ernest Hemingway insisted that El Greco's homosexuality was the primary source of his great creative energy.

Jean Cocteau wrote a lavishly illustrated monograph on El Greco, in which he eloquently and passionately explained the implications of his altarpieces. Cocteau later modeled his illustrations for Jean Genet's Querelle on paintings by Theotocopoulos.

Among other works inspired by this interpretation of the artist, one can note several of Cecil Beaton's homoerotic photographs, which are directly based upon the Renaissance artist's compositions.

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: Nude Males

Throughout much of history, the nude male figure was virtually the only subject that could be used to articulate homoerotic desire in publicly displayed works of art, as well as those works of art intended for private "consumption."

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 >> Beaton, Sir Cecil

The celebrated British photographer Cecil Beaton described himself as a "terrible, terrible homosexualist," but may be best known for his relationship with Greta Garbo.

literature >> Cocteau, Jean

An outspoken homosexual, Jean Cocteau was a prolific poet, novelist, critic, essayist, artist, and filmmaker.

literature >> Genet, Jean

Jean Genet's work has left a powerful legacy to post-modernity and remains a provocation to questions of gay identity.

literature >> Hemingway, Ernest

Ernest Hemingway, himself sexually insecure, included negative, even abusive portrayals of gay men in his fiction.


Brown, Jonathan, and Richard G. Mann. Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Cocteau, Jean. Le Greco. Paris: Au Divan, 1943.

Hemingway, Ernest. Death in the Afternoon. New York: Scribner's, 1932.

Mann, Richard G. El Greco and His Patrons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

San Roman, Francisco de Borja. El Greco en Toledo. 1910. Rpt. Toledo: Zocodover, 1982.

Wethey, Harold. El Greco and His School. 2 volumes. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1962.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Greco, El (Domenicos Theotocopoulos)  
    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 18, 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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