The painter, Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864), was studying in Rome, and his scholarship required him to send back paintings in various genres. This was, in effect, his homework.
It caused an immediate sensation, lauded as a depiction of the allure of southern Italy: barbaric, primitive, yet beautiful. The original hangs in the Louvre.
Flandrin painted mostly conventional portraits for the rest of his life.
An 1887 engraving gave the painting widespread popularity, especially in the gay subculture of the Belle Epoque. It has remained a gay icon ever since. Nearly every gay photographer has reproduced it.
How did it become a gay icon? In an article in The Journal of Homosexuality, Michael Camille argus that it is "a a sign of our separate and secluded subject positions and our community's unwillingness to radically alter older imposed and inherited classical stereotypes." In other words, the guy is isolated, alone, and despairing, therefore gay.
WilhelmVan Gloeden, who also specialized in the allure of southern Italy. At least his model had a muscular back.
Lindsay Lozon, author of Boys Uncovered (2004). Wearing underwear and socks immeasurably decreases the model's vulnerability, and he gazes out at us while we gaze at him, with an aggressive sensuality.
More after the break.
I found this one in a google search. Nice muscles, wearing underwear, looking rather cold. He could just come out of the rain.
Sandro Bross. who appears to be a hairdresser in Switzerland who photographs nude men as a hobby. I think this is the best of the lot: an attractive young man looking out at the camera with a quizzical expression.
Mapplethorpe's version. Getting a black model adds a comment on racism and the fetishization of the black body. Plus there's a rather enormous penis on display.
Brent Dundore is a Minneapolis-based photographer specializing in celebrities and naked men. The ornate couch makes this a portrait of opulence, and the young man is raising his legs as if he's about to dance or get into a sexual position, rendering it light and airy rather than ponderous.
This is an Italian shoe advertisement.
John Coulthart has a gallery of many more Flandrin poses on his blog.