Monday, August 20, 2007

David and Jonathan in art


King David appears in the Old Testament in the First and Second Books of Samuel and in the first chapter of the First Book of kings.

Frontain suggests that the Bible presents David, the shepherd boy, as being attractive in a homoerotic way.

David is "ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to" (1 Sam. 16:12).

Donatello's bronze (1430-1440) shows David as a handsome nude boy.

Frontain writes that 'Donatello's supposed representation of himself as Goliath initiated a tradition in which a homosexual artist depicts himself as the defeated giant, and his male beloved as the beautiful, victorious boy.'

In Caravaggio's David II (ca 1606, Galleria Borghese), Caravaggio's lover Cecco Boneri posed as David. ; the head of Goliath is the artist's self-portrait.

Aubin Vouet shows an androgynous boy in David Holding the Head of Goliath (ca 1622-1626, Bordeaux).

Guido Reni also shows us David Contemplating the Head of Goliath (ca 1605, Louvre).

David's loved Jonathan, the son of David's predecessor Saul.

"The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David... and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam. 18:1).

When the two friends are forced to part from each other, "they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded" (1 Sam. 20:41).

Jonathan is killed alongside his father in battle. David relates: "The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places; how are the mighty fallen! . . . I am very distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Sam. 1:19-26).

Sir Frederic Leighton's Jonathan's Token to David was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1868.
In The Sexual Perspective Emmanuel Cooper wrote about the homoerotic nature of Leighton's Jonathan and his servant boy.

Frontain tells us that Leonard Bernstein began work on an opera on the "Saul, David, Jonathan Triangle" that would hinge "upon suggestions, lightly done," of both the father's and the son's sexual attraction to David.
According to biographer Humphry Burton, Bernstein "even drafted the dialogue for a full-blown love scene between David and Jonathan." The opera was not completed before Bernstein's death.