On the Hunt for Depictions of Queer Sexuality at the Prado
For the exhibition, The Other’s Gaze, the curators left the objects in their usual locations in order to illustrate the rich history of representing non-normative gender and sexuality already present within European painting and sculpture.
MADRID — The Prado’s The Other’s Gaze: Spaces of Difference uses the museum’s permanent collection to trace the history of same-sex relationships within Western art, “making visible the invisible,” according to curator Carlos Navarro. The exhibition, which opened in tandem with Madrid’s 2017 WorldPride festival, is based on a selection of thirty works that depict either same-sex relationships, transgender individuals, or cross-dressing individuals, or were created by artists who themselves were persecuted for their sexuality. Rather than sequester these artworks in an exhibition space, the curators have left the objects in their usual locations in order to illustrate the rich history of representing non-normative gender and sexuality already present within European painting and sculpture, while simultaneously highlighting that history’s silence.
Upon entering the collection, visitors are offered a pamphlet explaining the objectives of the exhibition and mapping out itineraries based on four different themes: “Immortal Friends,” “Pursuing Desire,” “Deceptive Appearances,” and “To Love Like the Gods.” Not for those with a troubled sense of direction or difficulty reading maps, viewers are invited on a treasure hunt through the labyrinth of the Prado, searching for dark blue labels that identify paintings, drawings, and sculptures that are part of the exhibition. The Other’s Gaze also includes two works from the Prado’s collection not usually on display that have been hung specifically for the exhibition: Rosa Bonheur’s “El Cid” (1879) and Francisco Goya’s “El Maricón de la Tía Gila” (1803–1824).
Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggioare each represented within the show as examples of artists persecuted for their sexuality and tried for sodomy — facts little known despite their continuing eminence and fame.
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