Color photograph of the head and torso of Michael Lee wearing a suit jacket and standing in front of a white wall

Michael Lee

Prince Charitable Trusts/Kate Lancaster Brewster Rome Prize
February 14–July 22, 2022
Reuben M. Rainey Professor in the History of Landscape Architecture, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia
Project title
Ganymede’s Garden: Homoeroticism and the Italian Landscape
Project description

The Italian landscape has for centuries been a locus amoenus of male same-sex desire. Serving as an idealized setting for homoerotic visual representation and narratives of self-discovery, it has equally been the locus for social practices that gave rise to these associations. Cardinals and popes entertained male lovers in their Roman villa gardens, enhancing the atmosphere with homoerotic works of art. Northern aristocrats traveled to Italy on the Grand Tour in search not only of intellectual and aesthetic pleasures but also sexual liaisons with Mediterranean men. In the process they were equally seduced by the gardens, groves, and coastal landscapes of a warmer climate, discovering an ambience that seemed to promote and even sanction more relaxed social mores. With a focus on the early modern period, this project examines sites, texts, and artworks linking homoeroticism with Italian landscapes and develops a methodology for analyzing gay culture through a landscape framework.