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Patronage I: The Western World from Ancient Greece until 1900  
 
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Hadrian became actively engaged in many of the projects that he commissioned. For the statues of Antinous and other sculptural commissions, Hadrian strongly encouraged artists to utilize a style evocative of Greek art of the classical period. Some scholars have suggested that he promoted this style because he believed that classical Greek culture had provided a more receptive environment for same-sex love.

Abundant documentary evidence indicates that Hadrian personally designed the unique umbrella domes (composed of concave segments) and other architectural features of his villa, built 118-134 at Tivoli, a hillside town about 37 km. east of Rome. Exploiting the distinctive properties of concrete, the walls of the villa buildings are constructed as a series of sweeping curves. The villa complex integrated constructed and natural elements to an unprecedented extent; for instance, a dining room opens on three sides to fountains and gardens. Scattering statues of beautiful youths throughout the grounds, Hadrian created a utopian setting that celebrates same-sex eroticism.

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Visualizing Queer Love and Desire in Early Modern Europe

In later centuries, due to increasing prohibitions on expressions of same-sex love and desire, even powerful rulers were unable to celebrate same-sex love in public monuments of the sort that Hadrian erected. However, the memory of his achievements directly inspired such leaders as Frederick II, King of Prussia, called the Great (1712-1786).

When he was eighteen years old, Frederick's father compelled him to witness the beheading of his companion and probable lover, Hans van Katte, an army officer. After this experience, Frederick understandably sought to shield his love for other men from scrutiny by others. He commissioned the Sans Souci palace complex at Potsdam (1745-47) as a refuge from the pressures of public life, where he could relax with his closest friends.

In planning Sans Souci, which consists of several imaginatively designed structures, dispersed throughout an immense garden in the suburbs of Potsdam, Frederick referred to the extensive drawings that Hadrian made of Tivoli. An avid collector of ancient art, Frederick decorated both the interior spaces and the gardens with Greek and Roman statues of beautiful youths, including several of Antinous. Many of these pieces were obtained through archaeological excavations, which he personally sponsored. Both the interior and exterior of the "Friendship Temple" were decorated with images of various mythological figures (for instance, Orestes and Pylades) associated with same-sex love. The complex at Sans Souci reflects the image of the ancient world as a queer utopia, which inspired queer patrons in later centuries.

James (1566-1625), King of Scotland (as James VI, from 1567) and of England (as James I, from 1603), commissioned portraits to commemorate his deeply felt, romantic attachments to other men. After 1606, James lived apart from his wife, Anne of Denmark (1574-1619; married 1586), but he continued to enjoy a close friendship with her. James's relationships with his favorites were an "open secret" at court, and he provoked comment by kissing and embracing them in public. His longest affair was with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), whom he addressed as "sweet child and wife."

In his passionate and prolific correspondence with Buckingham, James repeatedly discusses the intense pleasure he derived from gazing at portraits of his beloved. James mentions both life-size images, displayed in his private rooms, and miniatures, which he wore on his person. Unfortunately, it is not possible to identify which of his many portraits of Buckingham were most inspiring to James. William Larkin's portrait of Buckingham (1616, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London; formerly in the royal collection) reveals the "angelic beauty," elegance, and sweet temperament, which James praised so eloquently in his letters. James's affair with Buckingham was celebrated in several court masques, but, perhaps wary of public scandal, he did not commemorate their love in a major public monument.

Challenging Gender Conventions

Nothing is known with certainty about the possible personal attachments of James's predecessor as ruler of England, Elizabeth I (1533-1603; reigned 1558-1603), though it is likely that she conducted several romantic affairs with men, most notably the Earl of Essex. Although there were rumors that love for women caused her to reject proposals of marriage, she probably refused to marry simply because she did not want to share her power with a husband. Whatever her personal life, Elizabeth I deserves a place in any consideration of queer patronage because of her promotion of portrait imagery that explicitly synthesized gender conventions of the Renaissance era.

Aware that purchases of works of art might be regarded as frivolous by taxpayers, Elizabeth encouraged courtiers and others seeking her favor to commission portraits of her and to present them to her as gifts. Although not technically the patron, she supervised the activities of both artists and their paying clients to make sure that the portraits fulfilled her requirements.

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