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Special Features Index  

Spotlight Subjects of the Visual Arts
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Vampires Subjects from Androgyny to Bicycles, Dildoes, Hercules, and Vampires have revealed much about sexual and gender identities throughout history. The 22 articles listed below describe the enormous and sometimes surprising variety of ways in which specific artistic subjects have been significant for people with variant sexual and gender identities.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Androgyny Androgyny is often confused with Hermaphroditism in art. The androgyne is not a hermaphrodite or a person with Intersexual characteristics, but a figure of uncertain gender in whom identifying sexual characteristics are stylized or combined. Androgyny is a significant and recurrent subject in art that has often held special significance for glbtq people.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Bathing Scenes Bathing Scenes have been a common theme in painting since the Renaissance. They are often suffused with a distinctly homosexual atmosphere and have been used by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, who lived in times when sexual openness was impossible, to reveal their sexual interests.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Bicycles Bicycles, introduced in Europe around 1863, were the first democratic means of transportation, and soon became both a means and a symbol of women's liberation. A bicycle craze erupted among women during the 1890s when they were particularly fashionable in cosmopolitan cities such as New York, London, and Paris.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: David and Jonathan David and Jonathan are important figures in the Old Testament and, according to the Biblical narrative, had an intimate relationship that some painters have depicted as homoerotic. Since the Bible insists that David should be looked at and admired, it is not surprising that he should emerge in Western art as the incarnation of male physical attractiveness, especially as rendered by Michelangelo.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Diana Diana, the ancient goddess of chastity, is frequently depicted with nymphs lovingly caring for her body, thus enacting a considerable degree of physical intimacy.  
  Subjects of the VIsual Arts: Dildoes Dildoes, often strapped on, are represented in many cultures and in most periods of European art. Dildoes are most often seen in images of women, but Greek satyrs or male youths are occasionally shown with them.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Dionysus Dionysus, who was known as Bacchus in ancient Rome, is the Greek god of wine, revelry, and orgiastic delights, and the patron god of hermaphrodites and transvestites. Dionysus has been extremely popular as a subject of Western art.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Endymion Endymion, a handsome young figure from ancient mythology, is frequently represented in art as an exemplar of male physical beauty, youthful innocence, and sexual accessibility in both the ancient world and among Renaissance and more recent European painters interested in classical mythological themes.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Ganymede Ganymede has served as an artistic expression for homosexuality since antiquity. In ancient Greek mythology, Ganymede, a beautiful Phrygian youth, was abducted by Zeus, whom the Romans called Jupiter. Ganymede was especially popular as an artistic subject in ancient Greece and Rome and during the Renaissance.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Harmodius and Aristogeiton Harmodius and Aristogeiton were Athenian lovers who were remembered in ancient Greece as the great tyrannicides and celebrated as lovers, patriots, and martyrs.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Hercules Hercules is an exemplary hero, personifying bravery, fortitude, and strength. His myths are a reminder that such a supreme manifestation of virility and physicality can also encompass sexual deeds outside the heteronormative and behavior that violates cultural gender expectations.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Hermaphrodites Hermaphrodites are a common subject in ancient art, but disappear from art history until the Renaissance, when they are most often employed as non-erotic symbols of the union of opposites.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Narcissus Narcissus was an ancient mythical figure whose story was originally intended as a moral fable against excessive pride. Since then, Narcissus has functioned in the arts as a symbol of same-sex passion, as well as of masturbation and effeminacy.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Nude Females Nude Females appear in the art of most cultures as goddesses, seductresses, saints, sinners, and muses as well as objects of desire. Lesbian artists have been particularly resourceful in their use of the female nude.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Nude Males Nude Males were virtually the only subject that could be used to articulate homoerotic desire in publicly displayed works of art throughout much of history. In contemporary art, the male nude serves to express many different aspects of gay male experience.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Orpheus Orpheus, a legendary poet of Greek mythology, was renowned for his skill with the lyre. Although most artists since the Hellenistic age ignore the homosexual aspect of Orpheus, depicting him instead as the classical pattern of the poet-musician, notable exceptions are Colard Mansion and Albrecht Dürer.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Priapus Priapus was a Phrygian fertility god whose cult spread throughout the Hellenistic world. He is usually depicted with enormous genitals and was the patron of all in need of luck, especially men and women in search of sexual satisfaction. Priapus was a frequent subject in ancient Greek and Roman art and an occasional subject in art since then.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Psyche Psyche, a late addition to Olympian divinities, was a beautiful young girl whose name in Greek means "Soul." Her story is often interpreted as an allegory of the human confrontation with desire and the divine. Although universal, it has had particular resonance for glbtq people.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Sailors and Soldiers Sailors and Soldiers constitute a long-standing presence in gay male visual culture and are particularly notable as subjects in the work of such twentieth-century artists as Paul Cadmus, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and Tom of Finland.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Saint Sebastian Saint 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.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Sex Wokers Sex Workers depicted in works of art have received very little attention from art historians, but images of same-sex prostitution extend far back into history and figure prominently in the work of some contemporary glbtq artists.  
  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Vampires Vampires as they have been depicted in the visual arts have been linked with homosexuality ever since they were invented in the nineteenth century. A number of films have explored the connection and have helped make homosexuality a common if not constant theme that continues to bind representations of vampires with homosexuals.  


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