Apr 27, 2018

Searching for Beefcake in "The Judgment of Paris"

"The Judgment of Paris" appears only in snippets in ancient Greek literature. Basically the story is: Hermes, messenger of the gods, asks the shepherd Paris (who may or may not be the same Paris as the Prince of Troy) to award a golden apple to three competing goddesses: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.

Maybe he is really being asked to decide on the superiority of power, wisdom, or love.  He awards the apple to Aphrodite, and all hell breaks loose as the other goddesses vow vengeance.

It has been a popular scene for artists, an excuse to show three naked ladies, with the two guys (Hermes and Paris) shunted off to the side.    

But there are two guys in each painting. 


We can queer the text in the same way that we find gay subtexts in movies and tv series produced by and for heterosexuals: by concentrating on the margins, the sidelines, the masculine beauty that the heterosexual male gaze would have us ignore.

Joachim Wtewael (1566-1638) puts the three ladies at the top of the painting and devotes the bottom to an orgiatic scene of nude men.  That's Hermes and Paris on the left, and I think two other naked guys on the right.

Hendrik Van Balen (1575-1632), a Flemish Baroque painter, clothes his Hermes and Paris, but at least there's some chest and shoulders visible.

Peter-Paul Rubens (1577-1640), known for his zaftig women, also shows a muscular butt and backside in his fully-nude Paris.

The Dutch painter Adriaen Van Der Werff (1659-1722) painted lots of naked ladies and at least one naked man, a muscular Paris.

Francois-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837) makes Pairs a curly-haired shepherd boy, naked except for a strategically draped cloth.

Austrian painter Eduard Lebiedzki (1862-1915) gives us a muscular back and arms.

Not many female artists have tried The Judgment of Paris, except for Margaret Maitland Howard (1898-1983), who worked at the Institute of Archaeology in London, wrote a lot of books on the ancient world, and liked painting naked ladies.  She gives us a pale, fey Paris and a very shaggy goat.

1 comment:

  1. Well, there's always just the inherent homoeroticism of straight guys watching porn together.

    Have you read Song of Achilles? It's a retelling of the Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus. And yes, it includes a sex scene.


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