Sunday, February 4, 2018


THIS famous Pre-Raphaelite painting by John William Waterhouse entitled "Hylas and the Nymphs" was removed last week by the Manchester Art Gallery in Britain to stimulate a conversation about "how we display and interpret artworks" ... but then was put back on display this weekend after critics accused the museum of prudery.

Visitors had been encouraged to add post-it notes with their reaction to the removal, and the response was outrage not only from museum visitors but all from the global media.

The removal had been explained as a reaction against the display of gratuitous naked female flesh, against the representation of "the female body as a passive decorative art form or a femme fatale." 

Ironic gay subtext: Hadrian was likened to Hercules for slaying a lion. Antinous was likened to his boyfriend Hylas, who was abducted by nymphomaniac nymphs.

Hercules and his lover Hylas had been traveling with Jason and the Argonauts to find the Golden Fleece. When Hylas vanished, Hercules abandoned the Argonaut expedition to search for his lost lover.

The result was that Jason and the Argonauts faced far greater perils without the strength and courage of Hercules.

And Hercules roamed the world crying: "Hylas!" Hence the English word: "Alas!"

Similarly, Hadrian was a changed man after the sudden and tragic death of Antinous in the Nile in October 130 AD. The emperor, whose rule until then had been wise and judicious, became capricious and wrathful.

He became obsessed with Antinous, proclaiming him a god and commissioning sculpture and temples throughout the Empire. Hadrian's health steadily declined and he died in agony in 138 AD ... grief-stricken for his lost Antinous/Hylas.

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