Mar 26, 2017

The Good Samaritan: Two Nude Men Embrace

Everybody gets the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 wrong.

Remember, a traveler was accosted by thieves, who robbed him, stripped him naked, and left him by the side of the road.  A Pharisee and a Priest passed by without helping, but a Samaritan took him home and cared for his wounds.

The poit is not that we should help people in distress.  Samaritans were looked down on as heretics, evil, unclean, degenerate. not really human at all.  Jesus was telling us that we shouldn't pre-judged people.  Some of the seemingly righteous Pharisees and Priests are actually morally bankrupt, and there are some good Samaritans.

Regardless of the point Jesus was trying to make, artists have embraced the story as a way show a naked man and still be seen as devout.

Like William Etty (top picture), the first significant painter of male nudes in modern Britain, whose 1838 version takes a dig at Islamophobia, making the Samaritan a modern Turk.

Nicola Grassi (1682-1750) gave the victim thick, glowing muscles, and took a dig at anti-Semitism, making the Samaritan Jewish (which they were, of course).

Cornelius Van Haarlem (1627) makes the victim completely nude (but censors the penis), and the Samaritan a contemporary Dutch burger.

You can also use the Samaritan story as an excuse to show homoerotic potential, a man cradling another man in his arms. This version is by Leon Bonnat (1833-1922).

And George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), with an older but still muscular victim and a black Samaritan.

More after the break.

Danish painter Lorenz Frolich,who studied under the gay Christoffer Eckersberg,, gives us an older Samaritan and a youthful victim.  And some stage blood.

Baroque painter Paolo Pagani (1655-1716)  has a version that's full of light and shadow, with a huge buffed victim and an elderly Samaritan.

Henrik Stefan (1896-1971) gave us a modernist version.

There haven't been a lot of Good Samaritan statues, since it's too difficult to tell what the story is about without background.  This one by Ulli Nimptsch (1961) is on the grounds of the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  It's actually called "Compassion."

But at least the men are both nude.

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