What’s gay about the British Museum

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The Warre Cup | Trustees of the British Museum | 14231

The British Museum has launched a guide focusing on elements of homosexuality to be found in its collection.

“Museums have always been very important spaces for people to consider their own sexual identity,” explained the Museum’s Richard Parkinson, who is the curator in the ancient Egypt department. “Most museums have collections of Greek and Roman statues which show men looking very naked, so for men who desired other men it was one of the few spaces where they could look at naked male bodies in a culturally respectable sort of way.”

The picture shows The Warren cup, a Roman wine cup decorated with scenes of men making love, said to have been found near Jerusalem, owned in the early 20th century by the American art collector Edward Perry Warren, who kept it at his home in Lewes, Sussex, and called it the “holy grail”. Bought for £1.8m by the British Museum in 1999, its most expensive single purchase.

The Guardian notes that the Museum also has a “Collection of donated gay rights badges, including one by the cartoonist Kate Charlesworth insisting, “no, it simply isn’t true that being a lesbian means you have to keep a cat”.”


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