Michelangelo’s Purity

This was written by Michelangelo’s friend and biographer:

“He has also loved the beauty of the human body as one who knows it extremely well, and loved it in such a way as to inspire certain carnal men, who are incapable of understanding the love of beauty except as lascivious and indecent, to think and speak ill of him. It is as though Alcibiades, a very beautiful young man, had not been most chastely loved by Socrates, of whom he was wont to say that, when he lay down with him, he arose from his side as from the side of his father. I have often heard Michelangelo converse and discourse on the subject of love and have later heard from those who were present that what he said about love was no different than [sic] what we read in the writings of Plato. As for me, I do not know what Plato says on the subject, but I do know very well that, in all my long and intimate acquaintance with Michelangelo, I have never heard any but the most honorable words cross his lips, such as have the power to extinguish in the young any unseemly and unbridled desire which might spring up.”

(Ascanio Condivi, The Life of Michelangelo, translated by Alice Sedgwick Wohl, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999, p. 105)

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2 Responses to Michelangelo’s Purity

  1. Ion Danu says:

    Romain Rolland cites also Condivi in order to explain his love (platonic love) for some very beautiful men – (Tomaso ?) That and other arguments convinced me that Michelangelo WAS NOT a homesexual…

  2. 100swallows says:

    Danu
    What do you call the man who fills the world with beautiful male nudes; who showed no interest in any woman all through youth and middle age; whose painted and sculpted women, excepting their virginal faces, look only like men with strange, unattractive modifications; who had many close relationships with beautiful young men throughout his life and wrote sometimes passionate poems to and about them; who was thought to be XXX by many of his contemporaries; who painted scenes such as those blessed beauties kissing at the right top of the Last Judgment and that harem of “angels” with God above the St. Paul fresco? What do you call him? Does HOMOPHILE please you better? Do you think I say he is gay as an ACCUSATION? Whether he gave sexual expression to this love for men I don’t know—how can I know? Aryul says he was asexual. How many of those, men of imagination, have you known? But I too am willing to believe. He had a deep spiritual side and, especially in the years when Condivi knew him, he was very religious. But all that does NOT mean he wasn’t a homophile, only that he controlled himself.

    I said before that Condivi strikes me as naïve. He met Michelangelo when Mike was over seventy and Condivi was in his twenties. Michelangelo was “chaste” with him—OK. Maybe Michelangelo didn’t open up to him. Condivi was blind to Michelangelo’s intellect. Why shouldn’t he also have been blind to other, basic, features of his nature? Remember that Michelangelo coached him in the writing of that biography, and dispelling suspicion about himself was one of the reasons he pushed Condivi into writing.

    Do I still have to say that it makes no difference to me one way of the other? I admire Michelangelo no end. I learn about him and try to understand. So should everybody.

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