Euripides and the Beautiful Boy: Moyra Davey at documenta 14 – Part 1

Euripides, the beautiful boy in the HSBC T-Shirt 

– Q(uinn) L(atimer) to M(oyra) D(avey)

The Athenian cult of beauty had a supreme theme: the beautiful boy. Euripides, the first decadent artist, substitutes a bloody moon for the golden Apollonian sun. Medea is Athens’ worst nightmare about women. She is nature’s revenge, Euripides’ dark answer to the beautiful boy.

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

And Hieronymus of Rhodes, in his Historical Commentaries, says that Sophocles once led a beautiful boy outside the walls, in order to consort with him. The boy laid his own cloak on the grass, and they used Sophocles’ cloak to cover them. When they had finished their encounter, the boy went off with Sophocles’ cloak, and Sophocles was left with a boy’s cloak. Naturally, this affair became the subject of gossip, and when Euripides was told about it he scoffed at Sophocles, saying that he too had used this boy, but he had not had to pay any extra, whereas Sophocles had been treated with contempt because of his licentiousness. When Sophocles heard this, he composed the following epigram, which refers to the fable about the sun and the north wind, and also hints at Euripides’ adultery:

  It was the sun, not the boy, who stripped me
  Of my cloak, Euripides; but the north wind went
  With you, when you made love to another man’s wife.
  You are not wise, when sowing another’s field,
  To bring Eros to court for being a snatch-thief.

–  Athenaeus The Deipnosophists 13. 82.

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