The Wallace Collection
Wed 19 Jun 2024
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Pride 2024: Getting Carried Away with Michelangelo and Ganymede image

In 1532, at the age of 57, Michelangelo met a young aristocrat, Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, and seems to have fallen head over heels in love. He created a series of drawings which he sent to the young man, ostensibly to teach him how to draw. But did he have other lessons in mind? The first of these drawings showed The Rape of Ganymede, a classical myth in which the great god Jupiter disguised himself as an eagle to carry away a beautiful shepherd boy, a story which has always centred on an apparently unusual queer episode in the life of the otherwise heteronormative deity. So why did Michelangelo choose this story? And was he too being carried away?
The Wallace Collection holds a bronze relief inspired by the drawing, and we will use this sculpture as the starting point of a journey of discovery, trying to reveal Michelangelo’s feelings, intentions, and even sexuality. This drawing – and the Wallace’s relief – are not the only evidence we will consider. There are at least two other drawings made for Tommaso, and the heartfelt correspondence between the two men which is revealing. In addition, we will consider Michelangelo’s own intricate, profound, and entirely relevant poetry.
About the speaker: Dr Richard Stemp is a graduate of Clare College, University of Cambridge, where he also completed his PhD on Sculpture in Ferrara in the 15th Century. After a year at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts he has shared his time between art and acting. Richard was a lecturer at the National Gallery for 24 years, and has worked regularly for London’s leading galleries including Tate, Buckingham Palace and the V&A. His books include The Secret Language of the Renaissance and Churches and Cathedrals; he has written and presented two series for Channel Four: Art in the National Gallery and Tate Modern.