The Renaissance is best known for birthing many of the ideas that stay with us today, but it also gave us a treasure trove of art. A lot of really hunky, beefcake, swole art. Seriously, early modern art is literally filled with hot dudes everywhere you turn. 

Why? Because of a little thing called homosociality, a term that describes the social bonds between people of the same sex, particularly in a non-sexual context. Appreciating beauty was a major theme of male intellectual life among elite social and philosophical circles.

As art historian Patricia Simons has argued, the boundaries for men between sensuality and sexuality were blurred. Christians believed that the hotter you were, the holier you were because your inner beauty was reflected outwardly. 

Artists really took this idea and ran with it, putting the “homo” in homosocial. The male form was considered the apex of beauty. 

You really have to look no further than any painting of Saint Sebastian to see that. Saint Sebastian has been a queer icon for centuries, and the thirst really started in the Renaissance with artists like Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, and Antonio del Pollaiuolo.

Often shown tied to a tree or post and pierced by arrows, this holy hottie was a favorite subject among artists like Titian, Rubens, and Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Sebastian’s suffering, while undoubtedly gruesome, was also strangely sensual, with his exposed, toned body and that oh-so-subtle hint of masochism. 

The real masterpiece of thotty Saint Sebastian paintings is by Guido Reni. Did someone say “slutty saint?” Look at that loin cloth that’s fighting for dear life to stay on. The toned core with those deep cuts. If he’s in pain, he’s definitely into it.

Source: Wikipedia

It gets even more nude than Saint Sebastian, though. Michelangelo? He was basically the king of the naked man, none more famous than David. A whopping 17 feet tall, David’s physique was the epitome of male beauty.

With his perfectly chiseled abs, perky pecs, and overall toned body, this sculpture has been making jaws drop since 1504. The contrapposto leg is even serving Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries waiting for her leg to pop vibes. In creating this masterpiece, Michelangelo was inspired by the ancient Greek and Roman ideals of male beauty, which emphasized strength and virility. 

Source: Wikipedia

Handsome portraits of wealthy men could also be used as sexy status symbols, even if they were completely dressed. Bronzino was particularly skilled in this art. As the court painter of Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, he painted one of the most iconic Renaissance portraits.

Source: Wikipedia

Cosimo’s delts and biceps look massive in his suit of armor, contrasted by his far more lithe and delicate looking hands. Gazing away from the viewer, Cosimo is inviting you through his portrait to go ahead and get a good look at him in all his might. Plus, you know a man with literal spikes for nipples is into some freaky things!

The Renaissance has a more uneasy relationship with portraits of men of color. Although there were many dignitaries from Africa and the Ottoman Empire living and working in Europe throughout the Renaissance, portraits of them are scant. The most pervasive depictions of Black male bodies are as pages, slaves, or musicians, many of whom appear in homosocial paintings of the social lives of men and elite. But there are a few portraits of prominent men of color. 

For instance, this portrait of Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Tuscany by artist Giorgio Vasari depicts the Duke’s handsome, angular features and his signature cropped, curly dark hair. Like in Bronzino’s portrait of Cosimo, Alessandro is depicted in full armor, highlighting the curves of his body and emphasizing the thin, delicate nature of his hands. Florence is behind the Duke in the background, a reminder of the city he’s sworn to protect, and really, what’s sexier than a man who’s willing to fight for you? The Duke had many portraits commissioned, including by Pontormo and Bronzino.

Source: Sartle

Even though he primarily worked for the Medici family, Bronzino still did take on other commissions, such as this portrait of Italian statesman Andrea Doria as Neptune.

Source: Wikipedia

Having a portrait of yourself commissioned in the Renaissance meant that you were #rich and Doria had several. This one by Bronzino really takes the cake, though. Here, the elderly Doria, an admiral in the Genoese navy, is reimagined as the ultimate daddy of the sea. His body still shows his age, his stomach softer than in some other portraits, but still with still defined musculature, a sheet that’s leaving so little to the imagination, and that luscious, thick beard.

The king of the Renaissance daddies, though, is Michelangelo. His masterful depiction of God in the Creation of Adam fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is classier than a lot of his other nudes (it is God, after all), but that didn’t stop him from making God the absolute epitome of male perfection.

Even through the clothing he wears, it’s clear that God is absolutely jacked, his chest’s definition visible even through the clothing, and his arms and legs are #fitnessgoals at their peak. And look at that beard–it looks like it’s actually made of clouds!

Source: Wikipedia

The Sistine Chapel ceiling is in many ways an ode to the perfection of the male form. Because while God is covered out of respect, none of the people surrounding him are held to that same standard. Adam is basically muscle on muscle and muscle, as are the many men that flank the main fresco scene. Nude, contorted male bodies are literally everywhere in the Sistine Chapel fresco cycle.

Source: Wikipedia

Even in The Last Judgment, a part of the judging is apparently how one looks al fresco (get it? Cause it’s a fresco) because everywhere you look, it’s just one handsome dude after another after another. 

Maybe heaven is just a membership to a really hot gym.

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