Sunday, April 19, 2009

Affectionate Men Tintype

This category of photos seems to be immune to the effects of the recession. This tintype of two men recently sold on eBay for a whopping $280.

Why so much?

There are different levels of intimacy revealed in these photos, which seems directly connected with the prices they fetch. And this one suggests a very close relationship. I'd guess, father and son.

It is, in any case, charming. The young man sits on "Dad's" lap, casually draping an arm around his shoulder. It's hard to imagine any boy over the age of 7 who would be comfortable sitting on Dad's knee like this, or any Dad willing to be this close to his son. It's just too risky now. Too bad.

On the other hand, the guys in this photo are much closer in age, which makes their display of affection more "suspect." I learned many years ago from art historian Leo Steinberg about the "slung leg motif." It was a common visual code for sexual liaison going back to the 16th c.

Now I'm not suggesting these two guys were queer, or that they were art historians. But I see in this portrait a sexual energy which makes it far more interesting as homobilia.

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