Javier (1985) by Robert Mapplethorpe
Javier (1985) by Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe’s Muses - Javier Gonzalez

Discover the story behind photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s Spanish assistant and model

In 1985, Robert Mapplethorpe’s exhibition Black Flowers opened at the Fernando Vijande gallery in Madrid, Spain. The photographer, who was already a famous figure within the art world, attended the show’s opening, where he met a young Spanish man called Javier Gonzalez.

Back in New York, Mapplethorpe’s studio was a in a state of flux. Robert’s brother, Edward, had been serving as an assistant since 1982; yet Robert was now considering moving to the West Coast, and the putative move had created a rift between the brothers. Could Gonzalez fill the gap? In some ways, this new Spanish friend wasn’t exactly a perfect fit.

 
 

Robert Mapplethorpe, self-portrait, 1980
Robert Mapplethorpe, self-portrait, 1980

However, according to a 2012 set of notes accompanying the sale of a Mapplethorpe photograph of Gonzalez, Robert Mapplethorpe "was immediately attracted by the young Spaniard's classical looks and punk hairstyle and, despite his new assistant not speaking any English or understanding any technical terms in the studio, Mapplethorpe was determined to take him on.” 

It proved to be a wise decision. Gonzalez assisted Mapplethorpe with his floral studies, and also posed in many of the photographer’s pictures – his distinctive, southern European features matching with Mapplethorpe’s classical sympathies perfectly.  

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe

To see this image in greater clarity and to enjoy many others, order a copy of our new book, Robert Mapplethorpe. It is a revised and updated edition of the most comprehensive survey published of Mapplethorpe's photography. Edited by Mark Holborn, with an introduction by Andrew Sullivan and a poem by Patti Smith, this hardback book comes in an elegant yet durable slipcase, preserving the beautiful, difficult images, for decades to come. Want to go further with Robert Mapplethorpe? Check out more of his photographs at Artspace.