The ‘Secret’

Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, Caravaggio’s Secret, MIT Press, 1998

This written book examines the life and creation of Caravaggio, an artist of the late 1500’s. Caravaggio had the history of being a little bit of a ‘playboy’ as some might say, yet when analyzing his works, many art historians have gotten a deeper understanding of his life. The way he creates such things, and how certain elements may be analyzed as sexual in nature, have brought many to the conclusion that Caravaggio was gay. He created these works which held such a sexualized way of attractive men. Taking time to render the muscle, while yet leaving them soft enough to not masculinize his models.

This is an active thought process. Back in those times, as this written covers, that men could be gay, however it was only because they were actually women trapped in a man’s body. Yes, if you were a gay man, they basically believed you were trans. For you were having women urges even though you still were bodily a man. Men were not allowed to have the urges of a women, therefore they would assumed as another possible gender. A man trapped in the body of a woman.

That is why many examined his work in a more homoerotic nature, for how more androgynous his models were rendered. Yet, even though they were rendered more neutral, and that Caravaggio was accused of sharing a young man with another painter (and was brought to trial) it still cannot be confirmed that he was gay. This article covers how, even though we may try to get something out of his creations by how they looked, the deeper meaning, we cannot assign a sexuality to a painter just for that. It is wrong for Art historians to assume one’s sexual preferences just for their creations.

This is only for a man, however. If it was a woman painter in question, the male nude wouldn’t have been allowed even, therefor a woman painting other women, even in a very sexual or seductive manner, would not have been assumed as being sexualized. Art historians would not have assigned a sexual identity to women for their work, as they do men.

Header Image by Caravaggio, Bacchino Malato, 1593, which is brought up in the reading in question. This is a self portrait of himself as Bacchus, but ill, who is the god of wine and parties.


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