Gentle Readers please be advised that the following images are sexually explicit ;I believe quite beautiful, but explicit.
With that out of the way, I would like to revisit the Warren Cup, now in the holdings of the British Museum. I have become quite addicted to the now defunct but still readily available BBC podcast series A History of the World in 100 Objects, well worth a visit to the I-tunes store. That said one of the 100 objects examined was the Warren Cup; a slightly wonky silver vessel, crafted 15BC-15AD with images of love hammered from within.
I first encountered this bit of wonder several years back when I read John R. Clarke’s Looking At Lovemaking, Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art 100B.C. -A.D. 250 (well worth a visit to Amazon). When I encountered the vessel I really was taken aback, the images were sexually raw yet the figures were rendered with such loveliness.
Prudery would have to relent to Beauty.
You can imagine my pleasure when the august BBC decided to discuss the intricacies of the orgy scene in surprisingly frank detail. I cannot imagine an institution in the United States being so willing.
15 BC-AD 15
It really was delightful,the very direct discussion concerning images that may make so many folks squirm; the BBC boldly discussed the uncomfortable issue of age difference, placing the issue into its social context. I confess a certain discomfort with the topic, but the BBC rather blithely went about its business analyzing the social significance of the cup without bigotry or harsh judgement.
In this image the slightly older Erastes has his way with the younger Eromenos; Erastes and Eromenos, so much nicer then Top and Bottom.
Of course this talk of bearded men with beardless youth calls to mind the most famous of such couples, Hadrian and Antinous.
For a saucier image of dear Hadrian and Antinous, I recommend Édouard-Henri Avril’s illustration of the two randy fellows.I’m afraid I haven’t the nerve to post them myself. For more naughty bits I suggest this link for a larger collection of Avril’s illustrations.
The Warren Cup is so named because of its previous owner, the American art collector Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928). The Warren Cup seems to perfectly illustrate Warren’s own views concerning male-male romance. This topic is explored in his A Defence of Uranian Love, and he was romantically linked with the archeologist Sir John Hubert Marshall ( 1876-1958) , a fellow 16 years his junior. To further explore this relationship I suggest Bachelors of Art: Edward Perry Warren & the Lewes House Brotherhood, it’s on my “wish list”. John Marshall would go on as Director of Archaeological Survey, India, ordering the important excavations at Harappa, the famed Indus seals the result. The BBC lists the Indus seals as one of the 100 important objects but fails to link Marshall with Warren; perhaps liberal tolerance goes only so far.
Warren’s interest in sexually charged art was not limited to homoerotic goblets, he is most famous for commissioning Rodin’s The Kiss.Whether he was antagonizing the locals of Lewes, when he tried donating the piece, I do not know; the Sussex worthies deemed the work “too big and too nude”.
What on earth would they have made of his Cup?
In closing I need to thank “Ned”Warren for his progressive views and exceptional eye, exempting The Kiss perhaps.
b. June 8 1860
d. December 28th 1928
Until next time, take care,
Post Script, for more info concerning Hadrian and Antinous I suggest this link, hosted by a reader.