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A Brief Anthology of Nudity in Art


Beginning with the Greeks, the male nude was more highly revered than the female nude based on their unequal social status. Homosexuality was considered the greatest form of love, not heterosexuality. The Greek statue, Venus de Milo, is actually an exception to the rule. It was because of her deity, being the Goddess of Love, which allowed her to be represented in the nude, while mortal men were shown clothed.
Female nude statues would not become popular until the 3rd century B.C.

Christianity was unkind to the subject of nudity in art. Man and woman were created naked by God but ate the forbidden fruit and then became shamed and shameful (excuse my pun) of being "exposed." Nudity can be found in paintings depicting the Garden of Eden. Then there is a void, and representation of the nude again appears in the Last Judgment and of course, scenes from Hell. (These stories were enough to scare any devout Christian).

Only until the Renaissance were the classics reinstated and the nude became the symbol of Beauty, Truth, and Love. The Catholic Church began to allow the study of anatomy and eventually, studying live models became the norm for most aspiring artists.

From the 18th century on, nudity was popularized by the aristocracy and church patrons in countries such as Italy and France. As for England and Holland, the art craze of the day was genre, landscape, or portraiture.

I find it interesting that so many artists used the subject of a reclining or sleeping female nude, when in fact, there is no evidence from antiquity to provide a model that may have been used. In sharp contrast, Michelangelo left mankind his sculpture "David" and his male nudity.

Where are we today in relation to nudity? It abounds in advertising but is unusually only used in fine art when it is meant to startle or titillate the observer. Take for example Robert Mapplethorpe with his photography of young male nudes. I find his art bordering pornography, others may say it is acceptable art.

You alone should decide which art is pleasurable and which is offensive and not become part and parcel to what the art world deems "acceptable."

One of my favorite depictions of Adam and Eve is by Albrecht Durer. Available here from Allposters.com.

Adam and Eve, 1504




Adam and Eve, 1504

Giclee Print


Dürer, Albrecht


Buy at AllPosters.com




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Content copyright © 2014 by Camille Gizzarelli. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Camille Gizzarelli. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Camille Gizzarelli for details.

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