Sketch of the Apollo Belvedere

Winckelmann and the beauty of male friendship

Beauty realised

In Winckelmann’s essays and letters he addresses an extensive network of male contacts. In some he exchanges scholarly information. Others are characterised by emotions ranging from friendly affection to homoerotic desire. In one, addressed to the youthful Grand Tourist Friedrich Reinhold von Berg, he writes

Copy of the Apollo Belvedere, Okänd, Sweden

It is from you that the subject [beauty] is taken… and I found in a beautiful body a soul created for nobleness, gifted with the sense of beauty…the first time I saw you the affinity of our spirits was revealed to me.[1]

Winckelmann’s description of Berg resonates with his descriptions of beautiful sculptures such as as the Apollo Belvedere, a statue he praises as the ideal of youthful masculinity.

An eternal spring, as in the happy fields of Elysium, clothes with the charms of youth and the graceful manliness of ripened years, and plays with softness and tenderness about the proud shape of his limbs. Let thy spirit penetrate into the kingdom of incorporeal beauties.[2]

In both Berg and the statue Winckelmann sees the ideal harmony of a beautiful body and soul.

 

[1] Pater 1873, 161 (An berg, letter 488)

[2] Winckelmann 1764, 139 (History of Ancient art)

 

→ 4.2. Androgynous beauty