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literature

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Winckelmann, Johann Joachim (1717-1768)  
 
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In 1768, his European reputation established, Winckelmann responded to long-standing invitations from the courts of Vienna and Berlin. North of the Alps, however, he was overcome by an irrational panic, and though he did enjoy an audience with Maria-Theresa, he canceled the visit to Berlin and headed south.

In Trieste, he was forced to wait on a ship, and it is during this delay that he became acquainted with his murderer, Francesco Arcangeli. Although the official police documents have been published, the true motive has never been determined. The rumor that his death was the result of a shady homosexual liaison persists.

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After his death, Winckelmann continued to be a figure of homosexual identification. Even as the German infatuation with Greek antiquity grew stronger, circles of male friends shared and distributed their copies of Winckelmann's letters. Within eighteen years of his death, five separate correspondences had been published, including the complete set of his love letters to the Baltic nobleman.

At the turn of the century, Goethe reread Winckelmann's works, his published correspondence, and the letters that Dietrich Berendis, Winckelmann's boyhood friend, had brought to Weimar, and decided to memorialize him.

The result was a book aptly called Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert (1805), which included the Berendis letters, essays by an art historian and a classicist, as well as Goethe's own biographical essay.

In sections entitled "Friendship" and "Beauty," which would become touchstones of homosexual sensibility, Goethe obliquely if unmistakably evoked the deep connection between Winckelmann's aesthetics and homosexuality.

The only account that comes close to rivaling Goethe's is the English-language essay on Winckelmann by Walter Pater.

Simon Richter

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   Related Entries
  
literature >> Overview:  Aestheticism

A theory of art and an approach to living that influenced many European and American gay male and lesbian writers at the turn of the twentieth century, aestheticism stressed the independence of art from all moral and social conditions and judgments.

arts >> Overview:  Castrati

Male singers who were castrated before they reached puberty, castrati reached the height of their popularity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; although not necessarily homosexual, they occupy a "queer space" in cultural history.

arts >> Overview:  European Art: Eighteenth Century

During the eighteenth century, men whom we would now call homosexual, such as Johann Winckelmann, Horace Walpole, and William Beckford, were at the forefront of public taste, championing respectively the fresh interest in Classical, Gothic, and Oriental styles.

literature >> Overview:  German and Austrian Literature: Before the Nineteenth Century

The treatment of homosexuality in German and Austrian literature was largely negative until the eighteenth century, when the basis was laid for the development of a more positive attitude.

literature >> Overview:  Travel Literature

Travel has afforded gays and lesbians both freedom from the restraints of their own cultures and the erotic stimulus of exotic sexual customs and partners.

literature >> Pater, Walter

The aesthetic of the important and influential Victorian critic Walter Pater reflected a homosexual sensibility.


    Bibliography
   

Derks, Paul. Die Schande der heiligen Päderastie: Homosexualität und Öffentlichkeit in der deutschen Literatur 1750-1850. Berlin: Rosa Winkel, 1990.

Leppmann, Wolfgang. Winckelmann. New York: Knopf, 1970.

Pater, Walter. The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1980.

Potts, Alex. Flesh and the Ideal: Winckelmann and the Origins of Art History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

Richter, Simon. Laocoön's Body and the Aesthetics of Pain: Winckelmann, Lessing, Herder, Moritz and Goethe. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992.

_____, and Patrick McGrath. "Representing Homosexuality: Winckelmann and the Aesthetics of Friendship." Monatshefte 86 (1994): 45-58.

Sweet, Denis. "The Personal, the Political and the Aesthetic: Johann Winckelmann's Enlightenment Life." Journal of Homosexuality 16 (1988/89): 147-162.

_____. "Winckelmann--welcher Winckelmann? Etappen der Winckelmann-Rezeption." Forum Homosexualität und Literatur 5 (1988): 5-15.

Wangenheim, Wolfgang von. "Casanova trifft Winckelmann oder Die Kunst des Begehrens." Merkur 39 (1985): 106-120.

_____. "Winckelmann als Held." Forum Homosexualität und Literatur 5 (1988): 17-43.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Richter, Simon  
    Entry Title: Winckelmann, Johann Joachim  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 24, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/winckelmann_jj.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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