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St Sebastian, who was an early saint and martyr killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians, is commonly referred to as a gay male icon.

Wikipedia reads:

British director Derek Jarman made a film, Sebastiane, which caused controversy in its treatment of the martyr as a homosexual icon. However, as several critics have noted, this has been a subtext of the imagery since the Renaissance.

After reading the referenced newspaper article, I'm still unsatisfied and I want to demand a fuller explanation indicating, possibly, specific and academic references.

Can anybody help me?

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Could you please translate the text in Portuguese? –  Voitcus Aug 20 '13 at 12:11
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

With the invention of the printing press came not only books, but artwork intended for mass production. The first major artist to use printmaking as his medium was the otherwise anonymous Master of the Playing Cards, who, true to his name, made his living creating beautifully elaborate engravings for playing cards.

Playing cards of the time featured religious and secular art, as well as, you know, nekkid ladies. The Master of the Playing Cards depicted St. Sebastian as an attractive male figure study in what could be interpreted by some as a seductive pose, inadvertently creating the first mass-market male pin-up in Renaissance Europe. Since then, a handsome St. Sebastian in coquettish poses has been done and done again by the later masters.

The linked wiki page has a copy of the scandalously salacious engraving, if you're into that sort of thing (Renaissance art and the history of mass media, I mean.)

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So, TL;DR is that he became a gay male icon because there existed a good looking popular image of him, NOT for anything even remotely related to homosexuality about him or his life or any literary work about him? –  DVK Aug 30 '13 at 10:59
    
@DVK - Religious rationale for the affinity came after the publishing of the etching... if anything, his story is aimed at heterosexual women. Good looking soldier, shot full of arrows for his faith, secretly nursed back to health by a beautiful woman of the same faith. All the hallmarks of a historical romance novel. –  RI Swamp Yankee Aug 30 '13 at 11:49
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Have a look at Michael Angelo's sistine chapel and it will be found that the pose of Mr. Sebastian in most of its illustrations, complies with the artistic evaluation of the time, and the sistine chapel is a good example.

It was consider the movement of human anatomy in a continuity of lines or shapes, giving a feminine twist. The mentality of today has no business with the art. The fig leaves, come to memory. According to the information available at the time of the first image; 'he' was tied to a tree, for the execution.

The homosexual connotations are a product of the 20's century,and the sexual preference of Mr. Sebastian, is pure speculation. [This is from a nonbeliever]

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