Samstag, April 30, 2005

HOMICIDE IN TRIESTE in 1768

In 1768, Winckelmann's European reputation established, he responded to long-standing invitations from the courts of Vienna and Berlin. North of the Alps, however, he was overcome by an irrational panic, and though he did enjoy an audience with Maria-Theresa, he canceled the visit to Berlin and headed south.

In Trieste, he was forced to wait on a ship, and it is during this delay that he became acquainted with his murderer, Francesco Arcangeli. Although the official police documents have been published, the true motive has never been determined. The rumor that his death was the result of a shady homosexual liaison persists.

After his death, Winckelmann continued to be a figure of homosexual identification. Even as the German infatuation with Greek antiquity grew stronger, circles of male friends shared and distributed their copies of Winckelmann's letters. Within eighteen years of his death, five separate correspondences had been published, including the complete set of his love letters to the Baltic nobleman.

At the turn of the century, Goethe reread Winckelmann's works, his published correspondence, and the letters that Dietrich Berendis, Winckelmann's boyhood friend, had brought to Weimar, and decided to memorialize him.

The result was a book aptly called Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert (1805), which included the Berendis letters, essays by an art historian and a classicist, as well as Goethe's own biographical essay.

In sections entitled "Friendship" and "Beauty," which would become touchstones of homosexual sensibility, Goethe obliquely if unmistakably evoked the deep connection between Winckelmann's aesthetics and homosexuality.

The only account that comes close to rivaling Goethe's is the English-language essay on Winckelmann by Walter Pater.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jim said...

Maybe he was Jewish? His name ends with two n's, was there antisemitism going on then to inspire his murder?

4:22 nachm.  
Blogger castor said...

No, Jim, Winckelmann wasn't Jewish... I think it was a Gay-Drama, for Francesco Arcangeli cut Winckelmann's pubic region too ....

11:23 nachm.  

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