Phosphorus and Hesperus

(Folded into this posting there will be some discussion of male-male sexual acts, and paintings of these, so the posting isn’t suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

🐇🐇🐇 To greet the new month — Pride Month, though that’s no doubt an accident — my Facebook ads on 6/1, yesterday, included one new to me, for, offering giclee or canvas prints of Evelyn De Morgan’s 1882 painting Phosphorus and Hesperus:


An embodiment of complementarity: two half-brothers (sharing their mother, Eos), one (Phosphorus) lighter haired, eyes open, facing up, bearing a flaming torch aloft; one (Hesperus) darker haired, eyes closed, facing down, holding a cold torch pointing down; with their arms intertwined and their bodies aligned complementarily, in a 69, or sideways astrological Cancer, or yin-yang pattern (with Hesperus as yin, Phosphorus as yang).

The artist. From Wikipedia:

Evelyn De Morgan (30 August 1855 – 2 May 1919), née Pickering, was an English painter associated early in her career with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. Her paintings are figural, foregrounding the female body through the use of spiritual, mythological, and allegorical themes. They rely on a range of metaphors (such as light and darkness, transformation, and bondage) to express what several scholars have identified as spiritualist and feminist content.

De Morgan’s family was upper-middle class, and she was educated at home, given the same instruction that a boy would have received. She had a strong independent streak, refusing to be presented to society or, later, to have anything to do with the Royal Academy; still later, she was an outspoken pacifist and suffragist. Her husband was the ceramicist and novelist William De Morgan, son of the mathematician Augustus De Morgan, famous in logic and set theory for De Morgan’s Laws :

¬ (P∨Q) ≡ (¬ P)∧(¬ Q) and ¬ (P∧Q) ≡ (¬ P)∨(¬ Q)

The De Morgans traveled in a number of the artistic, literary, and intellectual circles of the time, and also were serious spiritualists.

The painting. Phosphorus and Hesperus is unusual among De Morgan’s works in featuring two male figures. Single female figures and groups of two or three women predominate in her work, plus some couples, but paintings with only male figures seem to be rare. In this case, it appears that she wanted to paint on the theme of spiritual complementarity, or something of the sort — I’ve found nothing about her aims in this painting — and this famous instance from mythology presented itself to her.

Then there are the linked arms. These might just signify the (eternally) linked fates of the two  characters, if they’re seen merely as embodiments of spiritual principles. If they’re seen also as human beings, then the linked arms read as an intimate connection — possibly as filial affection. The young men are brothers, after all.

Looking at the painting with modern eyes, it’s easy to see the tangle of the two bodies as conveying more: a romantic affection, quite possibly carnal connection. Homoerotic understandings that are unlikely to have occurred to De Morgan. But which — in a little while —  I’ll make a good bit of, thanks to sexual associations with the numeral 69 and its visual relatives, the astrological sign of Cancer and the yin-yang symbol.

The astronomical and mythological Phosphorus and Hesperus. Plus a philosophical point about names. From Wikipedia for the morning star:

Phosphorus (Greek Φωσφόρος Phōsphoros [‘bearer of light’, often translated as Lucifer in Latin]) is the planet Venus in its appearance as the Morning Star. Another Greek name for the Morning Star is Heosphorus (Greek Ἑωσφόρος Heōsphoros) [sometimes Eosphorus in English], meaning “the dawn-bringer”. … As an adjective, the Greek word φωσφόρος is applied in the sense of “light-bringing” to, for instance, the dawn, the god Dionysus, pine torches, the day; and in the sense of “torch-bearing” as an epithet of several gods and goddesses, especially Hecate but also of Artemis/Diana and Hephaestus. Objectively, Venus is the “light bringer” as she [I would have written it; Venus the deity is female, and her name Venus in Latin is of feminine grammatical gender, but the planet named Venus is an inanimate object, and English doesn’t have grammatical gender] appears most brightly in the sky in December (optical illusion due to days being shorter); the most regular appearance of the planet signalled a beginning of “rebirth” phase where the days would get longer and winter would end.

… While at an early stage the Morning Star (called Phosphorus and other names) and the Evening Star (referred to by names such as Hesperus) were thought of as two celestial objects, the Greeks accepted that the two were the same, but they seem to have continued to treat the two mythological entities as distinct.

… In the philosophy of language, “Hesperus is Phosphorus” is a famous sentence in relation to the semantics of proper names. Gottlob Frege used the terms “the evening star” (der Abendstern) and “the morning star” (der Morgenstern) to illustrate his distinction between sense and reference, and subsequent philosophers changed the example to “Hesperus is Phosphorus” so that it utilized proper names. Saul Kripke used the sentence to posit that the knowledge of something necessary — in this case the identity of Hesperus and Phosphorus — could be discoverable rather than known a priori.

Also (but much more briefly) from Wikipedia for the evening star:

In Greek mythology, Hesperus (Ancient Greek: Ἕσπερος, romanized: Hésperos) is the Evening Star, the planet Venus in the evening. He is the son of the dawn goddess Eos (Roman Aurora) and is the half-brother of her other son, Phosphorus (also called Eosphorus; the “Morning Star”). Hesperus’ Roman equivalent is Vesper [as Phosphorus’s Roman equivalent is Lucifer]

The symbolic resources: the numeral 69.

(#2) Road sign for Rte 69

From my 3/16/18 posting “Extended 69”, about 69 ‘reciprocal oragenitalism’ (especially reciprocal fellatio), extensions of the term, and the symbolic resources for representing these acts, notably:

symbols borrowed from other contexts but usable to represent 69 because of their form. First, the astrological sign Cancer, an abstract representation of a crab (rounded shape, two big claws):

(#3) The astrological sign, easily seen as 69 with one partner lying on top of the other

(#4) The astrological sign sideways, readable as the numeral, or seen as 69 with the partners lying side by side, or as the tricky vertical, or standing, 69

And then yin and yang symbols:

(#5) The standard yin-yang, which looks like 96

(#6) The standard symbol flipped, so it looks like 69

#1 can be seen as the numeral 69 — straight as in #3, or in the astrological sign sideways (#4), or in flipped yin-yang (#6) — by viewing Phosphorus’s torch as the stroke of the 6, continuing down along Hesperus’s spine, with his buttocks as the ball of the 6; and viewing Phosphorus’s head as the ball of the 9, with the stroke of the 9 tracing down his spine to his knee on the ground.

yin-yang. From Wikipedia:

In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang … is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

… The principle of yin and yang is represented by the Taijitu … The term is commonly used to mean the simple “divided circle” form, but may refer to any of several schematic diagrams representing these principles

… In this symbol the two tear drops swirl to represent the conversion of yin to yang and yang to yin. … The two tear drops are opposite in direction to each other to show that as one increases the other decreases. The dot of the opposite field in the tear drop shows that there is always yin within yang and always yang within yin.

yin-yang is then a high-level conceptual distinction, manifested in all aspects of life, in binary oppositions of lower-level concepts (on those binary oppositions, see my 5/3 posting “The Raw and the Cooked”). A (very long) list of some of those lower-level concepts, with the concepts for yin and yang listed in parallel:

YIN: dark, black, blue, green, old, north, west, evening, night, autumn, winter, inside, feminine, water, wood, earth, sour, sweet, the moon, cool / cold, slow, wet, soft, passive, introvert, receptive, cooperative, flexible, indirect, conservative, negative

YANG: light, white, yellow, red, young, south, east, morning, day, spring, summer, outside, masculine, fire, sky, metal, bitter, pungent, the sun, warm / hot, fast, dry, hard, active, extravert, aggressive, competitive, unyielding, direct, innovative, positive

(Hence dark – light, black – white, etc. And Hesperus – Phosphorus. And in the sex act, yin – yang and 9 – 6).

Zane Maxwell’s paintings. Searching around for visual resources on yin-yang and sex. I came across a work on the pixels siteYin Yang 69, a painting by Zane Maxwell (who seems to market his work mostly through that site) — I am trusting that the image is sufficiently abstract that I can post it in a WordPress blog:

(#7) Some see this as a representation of interracial 69, but the title suggests that it’s to be understood more abstractly, as yin-yang 69; note that the yang cocksucker half has some yin cock in it and that the yin cocksucker half has some yang cock in it

Since it’s now Pride Month, I offer another Maxwell painting, with another abstract image of steamy mansex, this time quadruple (or more) rainbow fucking: multiple supine / missionary fucks in a rainbow haze):

(#8) As an extra, the title kaMANsutra, with a complex portmanteau in it, combining kamasutra with man

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