CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Old Masters with a Queer Twist

15 December 2023 - 24 March 2024

Old Masters with a Queer Twist

Exhibition: 15 December 2023 - 24 March 2024

Pride Season for the Old Masters? This winter, Hessen Kassel Heritage is reinterpreting its own holdings from a queer perspective, thereby bringing a socially topical discourse into the historic collections. In a deliberately open perspective, a selection of different works from antiquity to around 1850 will be investigated for pictorial themes beyond the norm as well as the potential of conventional motifs in relation to queer interpretations.

What alternative lifestyles, sexualities, and understandings of the body and gender that we would sum up today under the term “queer” emerge in the works of the Old Masters? And how are modern viewers perhaps also guided by their own socialisation? The special exhibition is intended to broaden the view of the collection through an open concept and to actively involve visitors. How do we understand mythological stories from antiquity about bisexuality today? Or why were there two portraits of a Swiss woman with a beard among the paintings of the Hessian landgraves?

Workshop of Adriaen van der Werff (1659-1722), Two women embracing each other (allegory of spring?), ca. 1696
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel

The exhibition Old Masters with a Queer Twist (Alte Meister que(e)r gelesen) promotes a fundamental awareness raising towards the topic and examines the historical visual language with regard to its ambiguity. Here, appropriation histories of queer movements are told. These include that of Saint Sebastian as an icon of the gay movement or the Amazon as a proponent of lesbian-feminist empowerment. The cross-epoch concept makes it possible to thematically unite objects from the various collections of Hessen Kassel Heritage and present them from a new perspective.