Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Angel Incarnate

Michelangelo and Platonic Love

Passion will not be denied. For Michelangelo the "fire that burned" got the better of him throughout his life and people noticed. It was key to his passion and his fire, which is why his writing is all about suffering and struggle and martyrdom: "I live to sin, to kill myself I live; no longer is my life my own, but sin's." And we know what that sin was.

It was also a stance, however, and he had a sense of humor about it - as in the ironic self-portrait below known as Scherzo, or the Torments of the Flesh (c. 1512). It is safely hidden away in the Vatican Collection. Scherzo = "joke" in Italian.


Below are two in a series of erotic drawings Michelangelo produced in 1532-33 during his infatuation with Tommaso dei Cavalieri. He was in his late 50's. This one shows the classical figure Tityus being tortured by a vulture feeding on his liver but it's the sexual posture that matters, much as it did in the many contemporary paintings of Leda and the Swan. The second shows Zeus taking Ganymede. Can we assume Michelangelo assumed physically aggressive postures toward his lovers?



For the Rubens version, here.

It is curious that Freud wrote about Leonardo's vulture, and not Michelangelo's - here.

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