May 19, 2016

Laocoon and His Sons: Beefcake Through the Ages

Laocoön was a priest who angered Apollo or Poseidon during the Trojan War, and as punishment the god sent sea serpents to kill him and his two sons.  Variations of his story, with different plots, were recorded by Sophocles, Virgil, Apollodorus, and other ancient authors, and inspired one of the most famous of all ancient sculptures, Laocoön and His Sons, now in the Vatican Museum.

After Michelangelo's David, this is probably the most famous beefcake sculpture in the world.  Interesting that one must enjoy male bodies only when they are in agonizing pain.

Similar to the boxers and wrestlers that we are "permitted" to ogle today.

The story of Laocoön has inspired many artists to try their hand at depicting bulging, straining muscles, regardless of the reason that giant snake tentacles are biting and straining at them.

Alessandro Allori (1535-1607), a painter of the Italian Renaissance, copies the pose of the ancient sculpture, but fills in the blanks a bit.

El Greco (1541-1614), one of the greats of the Spanish Golden Age, separates the sons from the father so we can see their muscles better, and has their pale forms struggling against the ruined Spanish countryside.

The older son, on the left, is Antiphas, and the younger, to the right, is Thymbraeus.  The stories make them twins, but artists usually think that it's more poignant to make one ateenager and the otehr a child.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), the pop artist of the Andy Warhol school, gives us a stylized version in which the three bodies blend in to the troubled, multicolored background of the 1980s.

Contemporary painter Richard Wallace's version is grotesque, with three men who look more like brothers, and one penis visible.

See also: Japanese Tentacle Porn