“Britain’s Most Romantic Museum”?: Lesbian Spectatorship and the Reception of Historic Figural Sculpture at the V&A
This chapter explores how late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sculptures of the female nude on display in the V&A may craft an enabling space for female viewers’ experience of homoerotic desire. It problematises the term ‘lesbian spectatorship’ as it relates to theories of ‘the gaze’ and examines the display of single, nude female figures to consider how a visual dialogue between historical sculptures and contemporary viewers might mobilise lesbian desire to disrupt the sociocultural, historically specific heterosexual masculine visual economy in which they were produced. The chapter draws attention to the lack of association between the female nude and female same-sex desire in art historical scholarship and considers the connection between representation of erotic intimacy between female figures in sculpture and female homoerotic, scopophilic pleasure.