In 1999 this 1st century silver cup depicting men fucking was the most expensive single piece of art ever purchased by the British Museum

Every Friday Erotic Intent will bring you a piece of erotic art history, from ancient Greece and Rome on up to the present day. You can see some good examples of a of erotic art through the ages in our very first post, "Dildos, Strap-ons, and Pegging: An Anal History."

Today we present the Warren Cup and its history by way of Wikipedia (quoted text). 

In 1999 the British Museum paid £1.8 mil ($3,682,147 today) for this 1st century Roman silver drinking cup. At the time it was the most expensive single piece of art ever purchased by the museum. 

Depictions of gay sex where far more common in ancient Greek and Roman art that one would guess from the dearth of gay erotic art from this period on display today. Much of it was destroyed due to homophobia and ignorance. In fact, the authenticity of the Warren Cup was brought into question due to the gay sex scenes depicted. 

"The cup is named after its first modern owner, Edward Perry Warren, notable for his art collection, which also included Rodin's The Kiss statue and Cranach's Adam and Eve painting."

The Warren Cup

"Illustrated drinking cups, often in pairs, were intended as dinner-party conversation pieces. Roman artwork on pottery, glass and wall-paintings with sexual acts represented were popular and were intended to be seen by all sections of society. The Romans had no word for homosexuality and the images on the Warren Cup provide an important insight into this aspect of their culture."

FYI: In ancient Rome there were many rules regarding sex, but as the article just noted, no word for or concept of homosexualty, nor did the Romans sort people into categories based on sexual preference. There was not gay or straight. Furthermore, there was no sex-shaming for sex itself. 

The Joy of Sexus by Vicki Leon

Vicki León explains it this way in her frisky book, "The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love,& Longing in the Ancient World" – First of all, neither the Greeks nor the Romans thought about sinfulness and guilt in the Judeo-Christian sense. The idea of mankind's fall from grace never occurred to them. Even women, despite having to endure a lifetime of domineering males, would laugh incredulously at the thought of sex being a sin. Adultery could be a crime, as could rape, but for reasons other than sin­fulness. A tangle of laws eventually would seek–not always successfully–to control some sexual behaviors and criminalize others.

"One side of the Warren Cup depicts a 'bearded man' and a 'beardless youth' engaging in anal sex in a reclining position, with the youth lowering himself using a strap or sash to be penetrated. A boy watches from behind a door. The two figures do not appear to be a great difference in age and are of a similar size. The apparent weight of the upper figure, as he lowers himself onto his lover's penis using the support, makes this a non-traditional passive role. The use of a strap or support during sex can be found in other Greek and Roman artworks, a close example being an erotic cup by Onesimos where a woman spreads her legs in anticipation while grasping a strap with her left hand."

The Warren Cup

"The other side depicts another scene of anal sex, between a 'beardless' and clean-shaven 'young man' and a smaller figure with long hair indicating he is a 'boy' or 'adolescent' (now the 'eromenos').  The boy's hairstyle is typical of the puer delicatus, a servant-boy or cup or armour bearer. Roman same-sex practice differed from that of the Greeks, among whom pederasty was a socially acknowledged relationship between freeborn males of equal social status. Roman men, however, were free to engage in same-sex relations without a perceived loss of masculinity only as long as they took the penetrative role and their partner was a social inferior such as a slave or male prostitute: the paradigm of 'correct' male sexuality was one of conquest and domination."

The Warren Cup

Read more about The Warren Cup and its fascinating history on Wikipedia. And check back next Friday and on our social media for the next installment of FKIN (A)rt FRIDAY. 


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