Friday, 30 October 2015

Around the World in 80 Gays : Part 21 - A Ruin

Last time : 61) Sally Ride (1951-2012), the first American woman in space, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded a year later to 62) Stephen Sondheim (b.1930), whose first solo success was with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, whose London premiere starred 63) Frankie Howerd (1917-1992), who went on to have success with “Up Pompeii!”, based in the city where graffiti tells us 64) Auctus had sex with 65) Quintius, none of which would have survived today had it not been for 66) Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768).

66) Johann Winckelmann can be regarded as the father of modern archaeology. He wasn’t an archaeologist himself, but what he saw happening in Pompeii led to him advocating a more careful approach to digging sites and the proper recording of the finds and evidence.

The ruins of Pompeii were well-known throughout Italy and Winckelmann was keen to visit them, which he did several times. He has a keen interest in all things Classical, turned on in his youth by ancient sculptures of athletic men, a passion he had for real men as well.

Even though the Classical revival in the Renaissance was 200 years before he as born Winckelmann lived during a period when ancient Greek and Roman artefacts and architecture was being rediscovered. Through the rising popularity of the Grand Tour for young aristocrats around the Mediterranean and the discovery of works of art such as the Portland Vase then renewed fashion for all things ancient led to the Neo-Classical movement. Winckelmann was influential in defining and establishing Neo-Classicism as a separate artistic movement.

Originally Johann Winckelmann decided to become a physician. Despite studying at Jena this career path came to nothing so he turned to pursue his interest in the Classical world. He didn’t think much to the standard of education that was available and this sparked his own rise in Classical learning. To earn a living he became librarian to the Count of Dunau. There he could indulge himself in the 40,000 books, of which many were translations of the ancient Classics.

In 1754 he converted to Catholicism, probably in the hope of acquiring a wealthy Italian patron to enable him to move to Rome. He had finished writing his book “Thought on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture”, which was published in 1755. It made him famous. On the strength of this work Winckelmann found his wealthy Italian patron in the person of 67) Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692-1779).

Cardinal Albani was a nephew of Pope Clement XI and obtained high position through blatant nepotism. Thankfully for us, this nepotism led to the appointment of 66) Johann Winckelmann and the founding proper archaeological research.

Cardinal Albani was hoping for a military career but his poor eyesight led him to art instead. By the time he died he was totally blind. He was an avid art collector and patron and employed Winckelmann as his librarian. Through Albani’s influence Winckelmann became Prefect of Antiquities to the Pope.

Not only did Winckelmann and Albani share an interest in Classical art but they also shared an interest in muscular young men. There was a rumour that they founded a secret society devoted to youth worship.

Winckelmann’s time in Italy meant he could visit ancient sites and get paid for it. He visited Pompeii several times and was appalled at the way the site was being treated. There was no proper recording of evidence. There was no systematic removal of layers to determine accurate dating. There was no care taken over the discovered artefacts. The fashion at the time was more for souvenir hunting than saving ancient artefacts.

In Winckelmann’s writings on his concerns about Pompeii archaeologists began to take more care over their work. Thanks to the fame he acquired after the publication of his 1755 book Winckelmann’s opinions were listened to. New procedures were established which have developed into the way archaeologists carry out digs today.

Europe of the 18th century was also a hot-bed of international political machinations as empires were beginning to push each other themselves to power. The great days of the Vatican’s power was over and the Catholic Church found it expedient to support one power against another.

67) Cardinal Albani was at odds with the Vatican over a particular political battle. In Rome at this time was James Stewart, “The Old Pretender”, exiled from the throne of Great Britain because of his Catholicism as a guest of the Pope. Cardinal Albani had more sympathy with the Protestant Hanoverian dynasty that inherited the British throne in 1714. The Pope had some concerns over Albani’s contact with Hanoverian supports though he remained a trusted Papal envoy and international ambassador.

Cardinal Albani took part in six papal conclaves. For two of these he was chosen to make the announcement of the elections of Popes Clement XIII (in 1758) and Clement XIV (in 1769). On both occasions he was a member of the same conclave as the son of “The Old Pretender”, 68) Cardinal Prince Henry Stewart, Duke of York (1725-1807). More often referred to as Cardinal York, Prince Henry became heir to the Pretender’s Jacobite claim to the British throne in 1788. Although Cardinal York never led a claim to the British throne he did sign his will “Henry R” indicating his belief he was the rightful king. To the Jacobite he was King Henry IX (technically, Henry VIII was Henry IX because there were two Henry IIIs).

Like many Cardinals of the time, Cardinal York had an entourage of mainly handsome young men and it is generally believed his love for several of them went beyond platonic Christian love.

The Jacobite cause (taking its name from the Latin version of James – Jacobus) was begun by Cardinal York’s grandfather, King James II, whose Catholicism led to his dethronement in 1688. Britain was a Protestant country and many Catholics had been persecuted for several centuries, ever since the English Tudor dynasty split with the Catholicism and created the Church of England. Scotland, too, was declared a Protestant nation.

The Stewart dynasty of Scotland succeeded the Tudors as sovereigns of England in 1603. The two countries were thus united under one sovereign, even though the crowns were (and still are) separate. For a while the sovereign was referred to by both titles separately, but in 1607 the Stewart king decided to create a unified name – the brand new name of Great Britain. That king was 69) King James I of Great Britain (1566-1625).

Next time we’ll see how King James is connected to one of the most famous swash-buckling novels ever written.

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