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A group stand around an exhibit in a museum. In the foreground is a large statue wearing a green robe.

Laura Bauld

LGBTQ histories

June 13, 2023

Laura Bauld, Curator of Decorative Arts (1603-1800), worked on the redisplay of The Burrell Collection and developed LGBTQ programming, displays and tours. Here, she discusses her favourite objects from their LGBTQ tours, which are running this June to mark Pride Month.

From above a tour group gather around an exhibit in a museum, which is glass fronted.

In the past, and even today, people who experience same-sex love or gender diversity have faced discrimination. Museums around the world have often hidden the LGBTQ histories and stories of objects in their collections.

The recent refurbishment and redisplay of The Burrell Collection has given us the chance to represent and celebrate LGBTQ histories within the new gallery spaces. Visitors can explore the stories in the collection and take part in our new, free LGBTQ history tours.

We hope these tours bring these stories to light, as we feel it is more important than ever to reflect everyone’s experience throughout history.

Vase, known as the Warwick Vase, 100–200

A large marble vase stands on a plinth.  The vase has handles and detailed carvings.

© CSG CIG Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

Marble, made in Italy, after designs by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, restored by Antoine Guillaume Grandjacquet, 1770s

The Warwick Vase was originally discovered in fragments in the grounds of Emperor Hadrian’s villa near Tivoli, Rome. Hadrian ruled as Roman Emperor between 117- 138AD. He had a male lover named Antinous who travelled with him across the empire.

In 130 AD, while visiting Egypt, Antinous drowned in the Nile. Hadrian went into deep mourning at Antinous’s death. To commemorate him, Hadrian turned Antinous into a god, an honour usually reserved for the emperor’s family. Hadrian erected hundreds of statues in Antinous’ honour for citizens of the Roman empire to worship, and founded a city Antinoöpolis, on the east bank of the Nile, in memory of Antinous.

At Tivoli, Hadrian created his own statues of Antinous to remember the man he loved. When the Warwick Vase fragment were excavated, they also unearthed these sculptures of Antinous.

Dish showing the Martyrdom of St Sebastian, 1500–1600

A gold dish with etchings including 3 people.

CSG CIG Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

Brass, made in Germany

This dish shows the Christian martyr, St Sebastian, at the moment of his execution. He is tied to a tree, semi-nude, flanked by archers who fire arrows into his body. St Sebastian has had many symbolic meanings throughout history. He was once the patron saint of plague victims but within the LGBT community some regard him as a gay icon. During the Burrell Refurbishment, LGBT Age, a community group for LGBT people 50+, explored what St Sebastian meant to them and wrote poignant and compassionate interpretation labels that makes this LGBT histories visible:

“The arrows fired into his body are like the words that can still prick us as LGBTQI+ individuals.”

Henry Woodward, 1750–52

A white porcelain statue of a man dressed in 18th Century fancy garb that includes a flamboyant hat.

© CSG CIG Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

Soft-paste porcelain, made by the Bow Porcelain Factory, London England.

This figure depicts the 18th Century actor Henry Woodward as ‘The Fine Gentlemen’ in David Garrick’s play Lethe (1749). Dressed in a fashionable coat and waistcoat, oversized tricorn hat, powdered wig, and sword, his costume is typical of the fashions worn by an 18th Century Macaroni.

Macaronis were a set of young English societal men who wore extreme and colourful forms of male clothing. The name came from The Macaroni Club, a group of men who had travelled in Europe and became obsessed with fashion and commodities from abroad; they were named after the pasta dish, macaroni, which was a popular and exotic delicacy.

Their flamboyant way of dressing and taste was regarded by wider society as a sign of male effeminacy, and sometimes homosexuality. Woodward’s character, dressed as a Macaroni, parodied this group.

Box, possibly a writing casket, about 1610

A wooden box that resembles a treasure chest with lots of detailed carvings.

© CSG CIG Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

Chip-carved wood, made in England

Sir William Burrell bought this casket for his art collection in 1927 believing it to be a writing box owned by King James VI and I. Letters written between King James and his favourite courtier, George Villiers, hint that they shared a loving and physical relationship for nearly a decade, until James died. This casket may well have contained such letters or been used to write them.

George Villiers worked as James’ Royal Cupbearer, ceremonially serving the king food and drink at meals. James showed great favour towards George, hosting parties in his honour, and making him a duke. In 1617, James had to publicly defend his love for George to his Privy Council who had complained about James’s favouritism of George.

James proclaimed: “You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else…. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had his John, and I have my George."

Figure of Lan Caihe from The Eight Immortals, Qing Dynasty, 1662-1722

A statue of a person wearing their hair tied back and long green robes.

© CSG CIG Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections

Porcelain with enamel decoration

The Eight Immortals are Daoist deities from Chinese culture. They lived forever and had special powers which allowed them to heal the sick, turn invisible, and even bring the dead back to life. They were the superheroes of Chinese legend, fighting the forces of evil!

At The Burrell Collection you can come face-to-face with our porcelain figures of the Eight Immortals including Lan Caihe - shown in a green flowing robe. The gender of Lan Caihe is unknown, and some believe they were without gender. The figure of Lan Caihe appears androgynous – neither male nor female.

Visit The Burrell Collection website for details on LGBTQ+ tours.
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