Queer Catalog of the Hermitage
Cameo: Adrian and Antinous, Intaglio: Socrates and Alcibiades, Cameo: Ganymede, Eros, and the Eagle

Cameo: Adrian and Antinous. Italy, late 18th century. Coral. Gold. К-5487. Off-site.

Intaglio: Socrates and Alcibiades. England, c. 1794. Sardonyx, gold. Brown, William and Brown, Charles. И-4073. Off-site.

Cameo: Ganymede, Eros, and the Eagle. Italy, early 19th century. Sardonyx. К-1929. Off-site.

The emergence of homosexual subculture in the 18th century led to more queer artifacts being created. We will look at just a few examples of carved stones from the Hermitage collection. Unfortunately, not one of those stones is part of the permanent display, which we believe to be another example of museum censure.

Members of homosexual subculture saw the ancient world as a kind of “golden age” contrary to their own hostile environment. That explains their use of classical narratives in their works of art.

The cameo brooch featuring Adrian and Antinous from the Hermitage collection is a unique and rare example of a joined portrait of lovers, because such depiction would leave little room for ambiguous interpretation and would thus immediately point towards the owner’s homosexuality. The love story of Adrian and Antinous became a cult classic for the homosexual subculture, and its significance can only be compared to the story of Romeo and Juliet.

Another carved stone depicts Socrates and Alcibiades. According to ancient stories, young man Alcibiades was not only a student of Socrates, but also, due to the nature of ancient Greek student-teacher relationships, his lover. There are many classical paintings depicting Socrates leading Alcibiades away from a bed with women. The viewers understand that the context of it hardly has anything to do with studying.

The third cameo brooch depicts Ganymede and the Eagle, a story we’re already familiar with. In order to preserve the divine nature of the image, however, the figure of god of love Eros was added between the two, which points directly to the nature of their relationship. Ganymede, too, became one of the most significant symbols of the homosexual subculture.