You might not think there have been many LGBTQ rulers in world history. But you would be wrong! From Alexander the Great’s Macedonia to Mad Ludwig’s Bavaria and beyond, there have been rulers (and members of ruling families) with many different sexualities and gender identities throughout world history. And a number of them, unsurprisingly, have left behind fantastic palaces and castles.
Penises in art are a bigger theme than you might think. After all, what is the number one question people ask in the Greek and Roman collection of any museum? There is no competition: why the penises in Classical art are smaller than real-life average adult penises. And the second is: whether Christians really broke off the penises that are missing from so many male nude statues.
Over the last few years, several museums in Europe have organized an LGBT trail, i.e. a self-guided trail following LGBT themes through the museums’ collections. The British Museum and the Prado are both prominent examples. No museum in the US has ever put together such a trail until now, when the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford has launched one. The trail, called “Out On View,” covers 16 artworks spread through the museum.
The Wadsworth has a particularly rich LGBT collection. This is partly due to the influence of the Director in the 20’s-40’s, A, Everett “Chick” Austin. Austin was an important member of the (closeted) LGBT art scene in pre-war New York. He created a connection between the Wadsworth and a number of prominent LGBT artists of his day, while also purchasing a number of homoerotic works for the collection from earlier periods. It is an ideal museum for America’s first LGBT trail.
The world’s art museums are full of Gay Secrets. These two gorgeous objects from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston are a great example. They are the kind of things you would just glance at in a museum—and then you’d move on to something you knew more about. But hold on a minute! Both belonged to a man named William Beckford (see the portrait from the UK’s National Portrait Gallery above)—who was the subject of the biggest gay scandal in 18th century England.
When Oscar Wilde Tours designs gay history tours, we always try to show people the gay side of famous places. We do for instance “gay secrets” tours of Westminster Abbey, the Louvre, and the Vatican. But we also try to take people to some places that are important in gay history and that they might otherwise never think to visit. Bletchley Park is an example, where Alan Turing (as in The Imitation Game) developed the machine that broke secret German codes in World War II and at the very least hastened the victory over Hitler. Another of these places is the Naples Archaeological Museum. Most people these days seem to skip Naples on their way from Rome to Pompeii (another place with great gay history), but Naples merits a stop for a number of reasons. On our gay Italy tour, we spend 3 days exploring Naples and its surroundings (Pompeii, Paestum, Capri).
People often ask how I went from doing gay secrets tours to shady ladies. How did a gay historian get interested in the history of female prostitution? First of all, a gay historian works on the history of sexuality, so the history of heterosexuality is not very far away from his topic, intellectually speaking. But it has much more to do with my tours of the Metropolitan Museum.