As we have already mentioned in the first chapter, one of the most controversial and most debated aspects of Caravaggio’s life is the question of his sexuality. Despite the lack of material evidence capable of proving whether Caravaggio was heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, and the awareness that the phenomenon of homosexuality as we know it today is a nineteenth-century concept, 1 there is no doubt that some of his early paintings are very sensual and could be interpreted in homoerotic terms. The works at the core of such a debate are five paintings that Caravaggio made in Rome during the initial stages of his career: Boy Bitten by a Lizard, 1593–94 (London: National Gallery); Bacchus, c. 1595–96 (Florence: The Uffizzi); The Lute Player, c. 1595 (St Petersburg: The Hermitage); St John the Baptist, also known as Youth with Ram, c. 1602 (Rome: Galleria Doria Pamphilj); and Victorious Love, c. 1601–02 (Berlin: Gemäldegalerie). The first critic to suggest that Caravaggio might have been homosexual was Bernard Berenson (1951), whose tentative remarks offended Roberto Longhi, who dismissed them in an article significantly entitled ‘La novelletta del Caravaggio invertito’ [‘The Little Tale of the 120Gay Caravaggio’]. 2 Whilst in Italy the question of Caravaggio’s sexuality remains a sensitive issue, outside Italy, scholars have regularly proposed homoerotic readings of Caravaggio’s paintings since the 1960s. Particularly interesting are the studies of Christopher Frommel (1971), on the relationship between Merisi and Cardinal Del Monte, and that of the same year by Donald Posner who argued that ‘Caravaggio’s youths do not merely address themselves to the spectator — they solicit him’. 3 Like Frommel, he also saw a connection between our painter’s early Roman works and the alleged homosexual inclinations of his patron Francesco Maria Del Monte (Posner, p. 306). According to Andrea McTigue, these studies, which are the product of the success of the Gay Liberation movement in the 1970s, led to ‘a rather more dramatic reception’ of Caravaggio’s works’ by fictional writers in 1980s who started ‘to dwell on the feature of light and dark’ in Caravaggio’s pictures, often to stress the ‘overwhelming sexuality’ of those works, but above all their anti-bourgeois nature. 4 This chapter will argue that, regardless of Caravaggio’s actual sexual inclinations, what appeals to contemporary gay authors is, on the one hand, such anti-bourgeois features and, on the other, what Warwick calls the ‘open-ended address’ of Caravaggio’s boy paintings, that is to say their ability to capture the ‘liminal state between identities’. 5 The case study selected for this section consists of four fictional works: the 1982 French novel Dans la main de l’ange by Dominique Fernandez, the 1961 poem ‘In Santa Maria del Popolo’ by Tom Gunn, the 1986 film Caravaggio by Derek Jarman, and the 1989 novel The Caravaggio Shawl by the American author Samuel M. Steward. As we are about to see, the first two texts use Caravaggio as an anti-bourgeois hero in order to stress the need to rebel against authority and those forces within society that demand a strict adhesion to pre-established norms. The last two examples instead use Caravaggio and his paintings to raise questions about gender and sexuality. Such features, of course, are not mutually exclusive as, by problematizing gender, one inevitably questions notions of authority and patriarchal structures, and the need to rebel against the normalizing forces of society usually leads to the questioning of gender and identity. It is just a matter of emphasis. Despite their differences, in fact, the above works share many common aspects: an interest in love, in the relationship between power and desire, sadomasochism, life and death, and the body as a site for the production of meaning. Since Dans la main de l’ange is the longest and the most complex text in our case study, it represents an excellent starting point for a reflection on why gay artists are interested in Caravaggio.