UNMASKING A QUEER NARRATIVE OF RENAISSANCE FLORENCE
A QUEER HISTORY OF FLORENCE
Raise the curtain on Renaissance Florence to reveal a clandestine chapter in the city’s history where same-sex relations convened with high art and intellectual discourse. Co-curated by art historian Kevin Childs, who established the first Professorship in LGBTQ+ history at Oxford University, this journey traces an enthralling queer narrative through the city’s richly frescoed palazzi and across historic Ponte Vechhio to once illicit riverside bathing spots.
Exploring Florence’s world-class art collections within the context of Kevin’s expert insight, discover works that revel in the male form yet also divulge the moral and spiritual dissonance of queer life in Florentine society during the 15th century, a time of great social change. A banquet and masquerade ball, staged in the fabulous confines of Palazzo Gondi, is the unforgettable finale to this in-depth exploration of Florence’s unorthodox past.
THE OFFICE OF THE NIGHT
As the Renaissance came to full flower in the 15th century, a significant number of Florentine men were caught in the gaze of the ‘Office of the Night’, a taskforce of moralistic magistrates who policed so called ‘crimes of carnality’. Learn how same-sex relations were commonplace for young Florentine males, who typically did not marry until their 30s.
Many of Florence’s most famous sons were themselves the subjects of investigation: Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Donatello, Michelangelo, even members of the Medici family - though only a tiny proportion of the accused, which even included compromised magistrates, were ever punished.
IN PRAISE OF THE MALE FORM
Private visits to Florentine galleries allow for a closer appreciation of the most celebrated erotic depictions of the male form. Admire Donatello’s delicately effeminate bronze of the biblical hero David, housed in the Bargello National Museum, and Bacchus by Caravaggio at the Uffizi Gallery, among other expressions of male beauty by Botticelli and Michelangelo.
It’s not just in Florence’s galleries where such works can be found; an evening walk through the city, guided by Kevin, amplifies the narrative of the male nudes who have populated the cobbled streets for centuries.
When I think, my love, that the day is near
Which must take me as if I had sinned,
And sighs are all that’s left me here,
Where we so lately sweetly twinned
- Poliziano (1454-1494)
THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN LOVE AND SIN
At the walled Orti Oricellari gardens, where once the Platonic Academy of Florence gathered, learn how eminent scholars of the time, among them the poet Angelo Poliziano, established a neoclassical justification of love between men as analogous to the highest form of religious love.
Le Murate, a former convent, also reveals the stories of women who engaged in covert same-sex relations. Learn the fascinating tale of two 17th century Benedictine nuns, Benedetta Carlini and Bartolomea Crivelli, accused and imprisoned by the church for crimes of a sexual nature.
REVIVING TRADITIONS OF THE PAST
A private visit to the Teatro Verdi, formerly the Stinche Prison where the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini was imprisoned in 1556, serves as a thoughtful prelude to the journey’s high-spirited conclusion. Guests are invited to attend a private masquerade ball where the theme of classical mythology and concealed identities will be played out in the illustrious surrounds of the Palazzo Gondi.
An art historian and specialist in LGBTQ+ history, Kevin Childs has focused his study of visual culture on the United Kingdom and Italy. Having devised courses at leading museums and universities, Kevin was also instrumental in setting up the first Professorship in LGBTQ+ history at the University of Oxford.
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