Bathhouse Art

Posted on 14 Nov 2010 at 4:44am

A new book about Michelangelo speculates that his inspiration for all the nude male figures in the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgment mural came from his frequent visits to Rome’s gay bathhouses and brothels.

Elena Lazzarini, a researcher from Pisa University, believes the enormous fresco is replete with homosexual imagery, including a man being dragged into Damnation by his testicles and kisses and embraces between male figures. She has explored the theory in a new book, claiming that Michelangelo drew much of his knowledge of male anatomy from his frequent visits to gay brothels and ‘Turkish baths’ in 16th century Italy. “The virile male bodies are inspired by the physiology of labourers engaged in physical exertion, with taut muscles, strenuous exertion and pain etched into the expression on their faces,” said Miss Lazzarini. Michelangelo’s explicit depiction of naked male bodies caused outrage in the Roman Catholic Church when the fresco was unveiled, with the artist accused of indecency and obscenity. Biagio da Cesena, the papal master of ceremonies, said the fresco was more suited to “public baths and taverns” than to a place of worship.

One art critic is unamused.

Some art critics like to say that the Last Judgment reflects Michelangelo’s own tortured relationship with his faith, in particular his belief that suffering is vital to finding faith in God. here is no light entertainment in this intense masterpiece, one which stretches across the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, the building traditionally used for papal elections. It seems almost heretical to link such a masterpiece to a common bathhouse.

(Tipped by JMG reader Vivian)

Joe. My. God.

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