Starting today, the Getty Villa is hosting a remarkable exhibit of ancient art, the first ever dedicated to the goddess of love and carnal desire.
“Aphrodite and the Gods of Love” features 150 antiquities centered around Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The show was organized by the Boston Museum of Fine Art, where it has been on display since October. It features nine stunning loans from Italy — a byproduct of collaboration deals struck in the wake of revelations that the Boston MFA, the Getty and other American museums had been purchasing looted antiquities.
Roughly half of the objects in the show come from the collection of Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928,) a Boston collector who the show’s organizer, MFA antiquities curator Christine Kondoleon, describes as “philanthropic gentleman scholar.”
Omitted from that account is the fact that Warren was also a renowned advocate of pederasty — sexual relationships between men and boys. Indeed, this was the source of his passion for collecting erotic ancient art — Warren hoped to revive the ancient tradition of sex between men and boys.
More than 4,000 pieces of art from his collection are now in the Boston MFA’s collection. They include sexually explicit objects that are rarely on display, including the sculpture of Priapos, the child of Aphrodite and Dionysos, displaying his genitals. Warren is also the source of the Warren Cup at the British Museum, which depicts scenes of may-boy love. (Some suggest the cup is a modern forgery, created to fulfill Warren’s desire for homoerotic antiquities.)
Warren’s defense of man-boy love culminated in his three-volume opus, “A Defense of Uranian Love.” It is considered “the premier paederastic apologia in the language,” and was republished in 2009. Here’s how it’s described on Amazon.com:
Edward Perry Warren’s three-volume A Defence of Uranian Love, written under his pseudonym Arthur Lyon Raile and privately printed in 1928-1930…is the clearest elucidation of the motives that lay behind his acquisition of Graeco-Roman antiquities for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and other prominent collections. Warren’s acquisition practices converted those antiquities into a “paederastic evangel,” as he himself declares, and his Defence is intimately woven into this lifelong, evangelistic mission.
“My verses and my prose,” writes Warren, “advocate a morality, but it is not the current morality in certain matters.” This is understatement at its most playful, for Warren’s Defence is a detailed map to a Utopia where “Grecian grandeur” is restored, and the “Christian sublime,” all but banished; where masculine virtues topple the feminine that have mistakenly led to democracy, sexual purity, and feminism; where aristocracy, nobleness, and male supremacy establish a civilisation in which Nietzsche would have found himself at home; and where paederasty, in the form familiar to the ancient Spartans, could and needs must flourish. For, according to Warren, “Love” (in this case, Boy-love) “can revive the old Hellenic day.” It is this revival – this veritable “Renaissance of Paederasty”-that Warren’s elaborate apologia aims to begin, by reminding Western culture of what it has lost or only forgotten: a sacral Boy-love and its accompanying traditions.
Mark Miner, who translated the Greek and Latin passages in the re-released volume and brought it to our attention, explains: “Although the MFA is very grateful for Warren’s generosity, his sexuality remains unmentionable, even though his magnum opus, A Defense of Uranian Love, has now (2009) been reprinted. Warren, to put it simply, was quite open about being a boy-lover, and his motivations for collecting Classical art and leaving it to Boston were paederastic. Paederastic on the highest cultural level, to be sure, but undeniably paederastic.”
“Warren had a specific plan for fostering the development of classical (hard, masculine, pagan) values on American soil by deploying as much art and literature as he could lay his hands on,” Miner told us. “That plan has lain dormant for more than 100 years– ‘an acorn in the the forest’ — but is beginning to bear fruit now. I am VERY curious to see if the publicity now being generated for the MFA & Warren results in any greater understanding of his ‘paederastic evangel,’ or if a Boston silence will continue to prevail, even when Warren’s favorite objects are exposed to the West Coast’s sea-breezes.”