Many cultures throughout history have felt no great need to categorise love, relationship and self expression. Here we share a small collection of art works across history that celebrate human diversity in all its magic, joy and creativity
Below, Mastaba of Niankhkhum and Khnumhotep embrace in a scene in a small offering room in their joint tomb – fifth Dynasty, Egypt. While Scholars believe both these men had children, there are many depictions of the two of them that are usually designated for married couples. They were then buried together in a joint tomb.
Below, an image of embrace from 480-490 BC, on the north wall of the Tomb of the Diver at Paestum, in what is now Italy. Today it can be viewed in Museo Archeologico Nazionale – Archaeological Museum.
Many cultures had gods, deities and spiritual icons that embodied no singular gender. Some moved between genders, some are depicted as androgynous while others could be identified today as transgender or intersex.
Below, a statue of Ardhanarishvara, the ‘half male, half female’ embodiment of Shiva. The earliest depictions of the deity are attributed to the Kushan period, first century CE. Today this statue can be seen in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Below a marble sculpture of Hermaphroditus, the ‘two-sexed’ child of Aphrodite (Venus) and Hermes (Mercury). The original sculpture of the sleeping deity is unknown. Later, in 1620, Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted the mattress upon which the statue now lies.
Here, we look to queer female love in art history.
Below, a painting of Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon, 1864. Solomon was known for his works depicting same-sex desire. This piece is inspired by fragmented poems written by a woman named Sappho in the 4th century BC where she writes to Aphrodite about her lover.
We celebrate love, self expression and creativity in its expansive boundless forms. We honour the artists who have transformed these experiences into works that allow us to witness the lives and stories of those who came before.