Ancient art and archaeological remains have provided archaeologists and historians today with clues to how the ancients practiced their sexuality and their overall attitude toward sex. To the causal observer, it seems the ancients were more open about their sexuality then we are today. In ancient Rome there were artworks in living rooms or studies depicting erotic images of lovers performing various sexual acts and in ancient Mesopotamia mass-produced terracotta plagues would show couples having sex.
The Secret Cabinet
For the Romans, sex was a part of their everyday lives, state affairs, religious rites, myths, even warfare, and featured prominently in their art. One of the most famous collections of erotic art from Roman culture is the artwork featured in the secret cabinet (gabinetto segreto). The secret cabinet collection is now part of the Naples National Archaeological Museum. It is said when King Francis I of Naples visited with his wife and daughter in 1819 he was so shocked by the contents of the collection he had them locked away. A brick wall was even built over the doorway to keep the scenes from corrupting people.
The following are a few select images of the artwork and artifacts found in the secret cabinet collection.
This Roman fresco shows the act of making love. It was found in the bedroom (cubiculum) of the Casa del Centenario (IX 8,3) in Pompeii. 1st Century CE. Photo © Heinrich Stürzl.
On Friday evenings from 6:00-10:00 PM, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City becomes a lively social venue with a full bar, series of special public lectures or tours, and complimentary gallery admission. In January, Ancient History Encyclopedia’s Communications Director, James Blake Wiener, partook in the museum’s end of the week festivities and learned a curious thing or two about Tibetan art along the way.
Yoga is practiced daily by millions worldwide, but few are cognizant of its origins and relative importance to Indian culture and identity. Although its history is long and complex, yoga reflects the rich philosophical and cultural currents that traversed the Indian subcontinent over thousands of years.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. Jeff Durham, Assistant Curator of Himalayan Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, about Yoga: The Art of Transformation and Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism, which are currently on view at the Asian Art Museum.