High-end educational travel company, the Luminaire, has designed a trip to Florence centred around Renaissance art and history through an LGBTQ+ lens. Jenny Southan reports
With “incredible relevance and authority”, the Luminaire wants to “delight and arouse curiosity” in anyone fascinated by art history, and what we can learn today about the past.
“Unmasking A Queer Narrative of Renaissance Florence – the Office of the Night,” is a Luminaire trip led and co-curated by Dr Kevin Childs, a renowned art historian who has been instrumental in establishing the first LGBTQ+ professorship of history at Oxford University.
The subject of many Renaissance paintings was the perfect male body, an aspect of Renaissance art that has rarely been viewed by art historians through an LGBTQ+ lens – until now.
Dr Childs contends that it was due complex identity and sexuality issues, and that many of the artists were themselves gay, bisexual, or influenced by queer culture.
To help further people’s understanding and appreciation of queer culture, the Luminaire has created a ground-breaking journey to Florence that gives a new perspective on art on display in the Uffizi gallery and documents stored in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.A central theme of the trip is the “Office of the Night”. In the Renaissance era, anonymous denunciations of homosexuality were posted in letterboxes throughout the city and Office of the Night magistrates would prosecute the accused. Even Leonardo Da Vinci was investigated. But few were ever convicted.
The Luminaire seeks to uncover why. Were artists influenced by queer culture and why has this been covered up until today? Was 16th-century Italian society more permissive about gender and identity than we perceive today through received history?
Dr Childs says: “Understanding those rarely considered aspects of history, such as the history of sexuality, helps us to understand who we are and where we came from. Exploring the sexual freedom and relative freedom of sexuality of Renaissance Florence through the eyes of some of her most famous citizens, offers a fresh look at an old city and an unexpected connection with the past.”
How much does it cost? All trips are tailored to the individual but this one costs from £6,250 per person for three nights at Villa Cora, based on a party of two guests sharing, including attendance by Dr Childs.
One example of the way in which this journey can be personalised, on-request, is in the arranging of a behind-the-scenes visit to the Archivio di Stato di Firenze, where experts archivists can share rarely seen records from the Office of the Night. Private letters reveal that Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini and Sandro Botticelli were investigated by this magistracy.
The itinerary will also include visits to the Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Medici and Bargello National Museum. At the end of the trip, guests will attend a banquet and masquerade ball, staged in the fabulous confines of Palazzo Gondi.