Wilhelm von Gloeden: Wikis


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Wilhelm von Gloeden in 1891

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (September 16, 1856 – February 16, 1931) was a German photographer who worked mainly in Italy. He is mostly known for his pastoral nude studies of Sicilian boys, which usually featured props such as wreaths or amphoras suggesting a setting in the Greece or Italy of antiquity. From a modern standpoint, his work is commendable due to his controlled use of lighting as well as the often elegant poses of his models. Innovative use of photographic filters and special body makeup contribute to the artistic perfection of his works.

Famous in his own day, his work was subsequently eclipsed for close to a century, only to re-emerge in recent times as "the most important gay visual artist of the pre–World War I era" according to Thomas Waugh.[1]



Tomb of von Gloeden.

Von Gloeden claimed to be a minor German aristocrat from Mecklenburg. Suffering from what appears to have been tuberculosis, he came to Taormina, Sicily in 1876. He was wealthy, and also scrupulously shared the proceeds of his sales with his models, providing a considerable economic boost in this comparatively poor region of Italy, which might explain why the homosexual aspects of his life and work were generally tolerated by the locals.

The von Gloeden family and its heirs have always insisted that no such person existed in their family records and his claim to The Barony von Gloeden was without warrant; the barony become extinct in 1885 with the death of Baron Falko von Gloeden.

Attitudes towards his work during his lifetime and later

Von Gloeden generally made different kinds of photographs: The ones that garnered the most widespread attention in Europe and overseas were usually relatively chaste, featured clothes like togas and generally downplayed their homoerotic implications.

More explicit photos in which the boys were nude and which, because of eye contact or physical contact were more sexually suggestive were traded by the Baron "under the counter" to close friends.

Gloeden, Wilhelm von (1856-1931) - n. 0241 - da - Amore e arte, p. 80.jpg
Gloeden, Wilhelm von (1856-1931) - n. 0545 - 24c - Le tre grazie.jpg
Gloeden, Wilhelm von (1856-1931) - n. 0580 - Gallo p. 25.jpg
Gloeden, Wilhelm von (1856-1931) - n. 1139 - da - Amore e arte, p. 92.jpg
Gloeden, Wilhem von (1856-1931) - n. 0329.jpg

The popularity of his work in Germany, England, and America can possibly be attributed to three major reasons:

  • The Classical and painterly themes in which his work wreathed itself served as a cultural "badge of protection".
  • At that time male-male-love was unthinkable to many who saw his images.
  • New printing technologies enabled the mass reproduction and sale of his work in postcard form.

In total the Baron took over 3,000 images, which after his death were left to one of his models, Pancrazio Buciunì, also known as Il Moro for his North African looks. Il Moro had been Von Gloeden's lover since the age of fourteen, when he had first joined the household of the Baron. In 1936, over 2,500 of the pictures were destroyed by Benito Mussolini's police under the allegation that they constituted pornography. Most of the surviving images therefore come from private collections.

Other similar photographers at the time

Von Gloeden's cousin, Guglielmo Plüschow, similarly photographed male nudes in Rome, Italy. From an artistic standpoint, Plüschow's work is somewhat inferior to von Gloeden's as the lighting in Plüschow's works is often too harsh and the poses of the models look quite stilted. Plüschow was already a firmly established photographer when von Gloeden started doing photographs of his own in the early 1890s. It is even speculated that von Gloeden was taught the (then difficult) art of photography by Plüschow himself. However, von Gloeden soon eclipsed Plüschow, and later works by Plüschow were frequently erroneously attributed to von Gloeden.

Up until 1907, his assistant Vincenzo Galdi secretly made work which he tried to pass off as von Plüschow's own. However, Galdi's pictures lack elegance, often also feature females and generally tend to border on the pornographic.


  1. ^ Nostalgia and the Photography of Wilhelm von Gloeden by Jason Goldman in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 12.2 (2006) 237-258

Further reading

  • Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856–1931). Kunsthalle Basel (1979) Exhibition catalog.
  • 'Wilhelm Von Pluschow and Wilhelm Von Gloeden': Two Photo Essays. (IN: Studies in Visual Communications. Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 1983).
  • Peter Weiermair: Wilhelm Von Gloeden: Erotic Photographs. Taschen Verlag (1994) ISBN 3-8228-9315-3
  • Charles Leslie: "Wilhelm Von Gloeden Photograper. A Brief Introduction to His Life and Work". SoHo Photographic Publishers, New York, 1977. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 77-83146.
  • Ulrich Pohlmann: Wilhelm von Gloeden: Taormina, München (Schirmer Mosel) 1998, ISBN 3-88814-474-4
  • Roger Peyrefitte: Wilhelm von Gloeden, (Biography + 50 pictures of nude from Gloeden) Editions Textes Gais, Paris (2008), ISBN 978-2-914679-30-5

See also

External links

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