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Photos of Matthew Mitcham's sleek diver's body have drawn international eyeballs since the gay athlete nabbed Olympic gold in platform diving at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Courtesy of artist Ross Watson, he's now been immortalized on canvas in a painting currently on exhibit at the Australian National Portrait Gallery.
Untitled #21/09, an homage to Venetian painter Sebastiano Ricci's 1700 masterpiece "Fall of Phaeton," features the 21-year-old Aussie diver swooping heavenward, clad in a barely-there loincloth as tangle of steeds, an overturned sun chariot, and the tragic and chiseled Phaeton of Greek mythology swirls above him.
"Isn't it marvelous!" Mitcham said of the Messianic rendering in a statement. "I'm incredibly flattered to have been depicted like this in such a stunning scene."
Mitcham isn't Watson's first gay athlete subject: the Australian painter has also worked with rugby star Ian Roberts, who came out in 1995. "Matthew is a great example of a number of high profile subjects who I've painted, and who are are strong role models for the gay community," Watson said.
In addition to Mitcham, Watson also painted Kylie Minogue's popular backup dancer Marco Da Silva. You can see that painting, plus the nearly nude photos of Mitcham and Da Silva taken in anticipation of the project, on the following pages.