The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy

By Robert Aldrich | Go to book overview

2

WINCKELMANN AND PLATEN

JOHANN JOACHIM WINCKELMANN

His life and death

The writer who did most in the eighteenth century to promote the Greek ideal of artistic beauty was Johann Joachim Winckelmann, often considered the father of modern art history and criticism. Winckelmann was born the only child of a cobbler in 1717 in Stendal, a village in Brandenburg. His parents encouraged his scholarly bent, despite poverty and the lack of a family tradition of learning. The local schoolmaster took Winckelmann under his wing, and when the teacher went blind, young Winckelmann boarded with him and read to him from the classics and other literature; to earn extra money, the boy sang in choir. When he was 18, Winckelmann went to Berlin, where he attended secondary school, his lodging arranged by his mentor. In 1737, Winckelmann enrolled in the University of Halle to study theology, the necessary course for employment in the public service. After two years, he found a position as tutor to the son of a Prussian officer, but in 1741 left to study medicine and science at the University of Jena. The next year found Winckelmann again working as a tutor, and he then spent five years as a teacher in the provincial town of Seehausen. 1

Winckelmann’s ‘break’ came in 1748, when he was already over 30 years old, still poor and unmarried. A Saxon diplomat and future minister, Count Heinrich von Bünau, owner of one of the largest libraries in central Europe, hired Winckelmann to catalogue his collection and work as research assistant on a history of the German lands. The years that Winckelmann spent at Bünau’s estate in Nöthnitz enabled him to read, learn foreign languages, further develop his interest in the classics and make useful contacts for the future. Among these, Alberigo Archinto, Papal Nuncio to the court of Saxony and a friend of Bünau, was impressed with Winckelmann’s erudition in a fifty-page pamphlet he published privately in 1755, Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and

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The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art, and Homosexual Fantasy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Sex and Society in the European Mediterranean 13
  • 2 - Winckelmann and Platen 41
  • 3 - Englishmen in Southern Europe 69
  • 4 - Following in the Footsteps 101
  • 5 - Mediterranean Men in Art and Photography 136
  • 6 - The Social and Historical Context 162
  • 7 - Contemporary Echoes 186
  • Conclusion 217
  • Bibliographical Essay 225
  • Notes 229
  • Index 256
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