Have you ever noticed how many LGBT figures there are in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection?
In fact, if you look carefully, you will see that it could almost be called the British Queer Museum. What is on display varies, but this summer, for example, the LGBT theme starts with the Elizabethan dandy Henry Wriothesley in the first gallery - Shakespeare’s patron, and possibly the “fair youth” to whom he addressed 2/3 of his sonnets - and ends with the nude torso of playwright Joe Orton, on your right as you leave.
And in between there are any number of people on or related to the LGBTQQIA spectrum, some of them famous ones whose sex lives you are aware of, some of them famous ones whose sex lives you probably don’t know about, and some of them less famous but fascinating people.
Examples include the Chevalier D’Éon, a French aristocrat, diplomat, and spy whose birth-sex was the subject of wild betting in the City in the 1770s; Violet Trefusis, daughter of Edward VII’s mistress Alice Keppel, who was long the lover of poet Vita Sackville-West and appears in Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando
as Orlando/Sackville-West’s lover, the Russian princess Sasha; and Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, an early example of a relatively open gay couple who appear in a joint portrait clearly intended to invoke their relationship.
Learn about these and more on Dr. Andrew Lear’s 'Gay Secrets of the National Portrait Gallery' tour.
Dr. Lear is one of the leading scholars on male-male love in ancient Greece; in recent year, he has founded Oscar Wilde Tours, the world’s first gay history tour company and designed “Gay Secrets” tours of several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum and the Louvre.
To book your spot on the Attitude National Portrait Gallery Tour, on Sunday (September 4) at 2pm, head here
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