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The Other’s Gaze. Spaces of difference

Madrid 6/14/2017 - 9/10/2017

The Museo del Prado is presenting a new focus on its permanent collection through a specially devised thematic itinerary of works that encourages a reflection on the historical reality of same-sex relationships and non-normative sexual identities.

The richness and diversity of the Prado’s collections allow for this new approach, which makes use of art-historical theory to analyse the most profound meaning of this selection of 30 works. Among them are iconic images such as Orestes and Pylades by the School of Praxiteles and David with the Head of Goliath by Caravaggio, as well as little-known works such as El Cid by Rosa Bonheur and El Maricón de la Tía Gila by Goya. The itinerary is structured into six different thematic routes based around various core displays and has the overall title of The Other’s Gaze. Spaces of difference.

The project is organised in conjunction with the celebration of World Pride Madrid 2017 and is accompanied by a publication sponsored by the Region of Madrid. 


Room Ground and first floors. Villanueva Building



With the collaboration of:
Comunidad de Madrid




El Cid
Rosa Bonheur
Oil on canvas, 95 x 76 cm
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The Museo del Prado is inviting visitors to focus on its collection from a different viewpoint through a selection of 30 paintings, sculptures and drawings which are habitually on display in its galleries. Representing part of the complex western cultural heritage, they can now be viewed as a marvellous testimony to different, minority and, on occasions, silent affective formulas.

Each of these independent but interrelated thematic routes reflects an affective reality with a social status that has changed in relation to different periods and places and which has been reflected in art in a range of diverse and appealing ways. On the one had these routes emphasise the way the various iconographies of love have passed unnoticed or were even concealed in the past and on the other, the naturally inclusive fact of their existence.

These works refer to concepts such as love between free equals in the classical world and the persecution of relationships of that type in the new Christian era; the status of different and ambiguous individuals as a spectacle in their own right during the early modern age; and the sole possibility of the acceptance of other alternatives through a literary and mythological key in images which were only for the enjoyment of the social elites.


The first route, Immortal Friendships, looks at sentimental and political relationships between people of the same sex. From antiquity onwards these relationships came to acquire mythical status in art history and literature as a starting point for the creation of an alternative identity legitimised by history.

The second, Pursuing Desires, looks at the persecution of artists and the denigration of works of art over the centuries due to their personal identity or subject matter and iconography respectively, given that they made visible relationships and identities outside of the prevailing morality of the time. Some artists, such as Botticelli or Leonardo, were put on trial while other artists testified against them. Many works of art suffered a similar fate and were either encrypted or were ignored for what they showed.

The body and its image structure the argument of the third route, Deceptive Appearances. Inconformity with the corporeal norm is to be found in a number of works in the collection, including The Hermaphrodite and the two paintings of bearded women by Ribera and Sánchez Cotán. Also featured are examples of transvestism and the reversal of gender roles.

To love like the Gods, the final route, brings together a series of mythological works that represent relationships between equals in settings remote from the real world. Works of this type were intended for the private spaces of the social elites. These stories of gods showed behaviour forbidden to mortals which only rulers and princes could contemplate.

The project is completed with two exceptional works from the collection, El Cid by Rosa Bonheur and El Maricón de la Tía Gila by Goya. These are little-known creations which give visible form to two complementary realities through a female artist and a subject matter that clearly relate to the content of the itinerary as a whole. 

Immortal Friendships

Immortal Friendships
Anonymous 16th-century artist
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Affective relationships based on mentoring or friendship between various celebrated figures from classical antiquity allow for an analysis of the status and treatment conceded by society to love between men prior to the dawn of Christianity, as well as the way in which art became a mythical realm for western culture from the early modern age to the 19th century; a time when the spaces of the classical past began to be charted as a place of innocent poetic freedom devoid of prejudices.

Room 74

  • Roman workshop, Antinous
  • Roman workshop, Hadrian

Room 71

  • School of Praxiteles, Orestes and Pylades

Room 73

  • Roman workshop, Aristogeiton
  • Anonymous 16th-century artist, Sappho

Room 72

  • Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Siesta

Pursuing Desires

Pursuing Desires
David with the Head of Goliath
c. 1600
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

From the Middle Ages onwards sexuality was persecuted by both civil and religious tribunals and in particular by the Inquisition, which burned at the stake men and woman accused of sodomy, a term employed to describe relationships that did not allow for human reproduction. From then on accusations of this type resulted in trials, humiliation and misfortune and were on occasions used as a method to discredit rivals and eliminate competition in the most elite circles.

Due to their sexuality and their success many celebrated artists and collectors found themselves on trial for sodomy, explaining why those of different sexual orientation were obliged to remain invisible. Similarly, the inexpressible desires of those trying to avoid persecution were encrypted in many works of art. Those persecuted for moral reasons became the subject of scorn and disdain, their image distorted over the course of the centuries while even works of art that expressed desires of this type became the object of moral censure. 

Room 56B

  • Sandro Botticelli, Three Scenes from the Story of Nastagio degli Onesti
  • Anonymous artist (studio of Leonardo da Vinci), The Mona Lisa

Room 49

  • Baccio Bandinelli, Venus

Room 4

  • Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath
  • Guido Reni, Saint Sebastian
  • Guido Reni, Hippomenes and Atalanta

Room 6

  • Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, The Assembly of the Gods orders Apollo to drive Day’s

Deceptive Appearances

Deceptive Appearances
Matteo Bonuccelli
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

While sexual acts considered reprehensible were persecuted, non-normative bodies – sometimes the work of nature and in other cases the result of a deliberate transformation – were viewed as entertainment. This spectacle of difference focused on sexuality not through the practice of forbidden love but rather sublimated in its most visible and innocent manifestations, those of human appearance. It thus simultaneously acquired the clear significance of a joke or wonder while, through uncommon figures and mythological creatures, in terms of its presence in art it found a place in the society of the Ancien Régime in which disguise was primarily an indispensable condition for expressing any type of alternative affectivity.

Room 8

  • Juan Sánchez Cotán, Brígida del Río, the Bearded Lady of Peñaranda
  • Ribera, Maddalena Ventura

Room 12                                

  • Matteo Bonuccelli, Sleeping Hermaphrodite

Room 28

  • Peter Paul Rubens, Achilles among the Daughters of Lycomedes

Room 21

  • Antonio Dumandré, Hercules and Omphale

Room 29

  • Peter Paul Rubens, Vertumnus and Pomona

To love like the Gods

To love like the Gods
The Abduction of Ganymede
Peter Paul Rubens
Oil on canvas, 181 x 87,3 cm.
1636 - 1638
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Emotional relationships of different types enjoyed a privileged space of contemplation among the educated elites, whose power protected them from civil and ecclesiastical persecution. Literature and mythology functioned to dignify stories of love which, even at the royal court where they were contemplated, could lead to an individual’s political disgrace or even his banishment. A particularly interesting example of this paradoxical situation is that of the Torre de la Parada, the decoration of which included numerous scenes of loves of the gods in stories that would have been persecuted by the monarch had they been acted out by any of his subjects. In the case of art produced for the court, however, this iconography was generally accepted as an ideal and innocent manifestation of a type of love that had no place in the rest of society.

Room 29

  • Anonymous artist, Ganymede
  • Peter Paul Rubens, The Abduction of Ganymede
  • Peter Paul Rubens, Diana and Callisto
  • Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hyacinthus

Room 16B

  • Anonymous artist, Narcissus

Other Gazes

Other Gazes
El Maricón de la tía Gila. Album C, 38
Francisco de Goya
1803 - 1824
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

This special thematic itinerary is completed with two exceptional works from the collection, El Cid by Rosa Bonheur and El Maricón de la Tía Gila by Goya. These are little-known creations which give visible form to two complementary realities through a female artist and a subject matter that clearly relate to the content of the itinerary as a whole.

Room 34

  • Francisco de Goya, El Maricón de la Tía Gila. Album C, 38

Room 63A

  • Rosa Bonheur, El Cid

Conversations between artists

In conjunction with The Other’s Gaze, this website is featuring a series of conversations between artists such as Guillermo Perez Villalta, Javier Codesal, Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller, Alexander Apostol and El Palomar; and historians, journalists and cultural agents such as Estrella de Diego, member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Manuel Olveira of the MUSAC, Jaime de los Santos, head of cultural promotion, Region of Madrid, and Javier Moreno of El País. These conversations will focus on the principal issues and problems behind the representation of other types of love and sexuality through art and literature.




Anonymous 16th-century artist

Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Maddalena Ventura

Maddalena Ventura

José de Ribera

In deposit at the Museo Nacional del Prado

El Maricón de la Tía Gila. Album C, 38

El Maricón de la Tía Gila. Album C, 38

Francisco de Goya

1803 - 1824

Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

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