The Ancient Art of the Nude
"Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress."
- John Berger
- John Berger
The male nude
The nude became significant in the art of Ancient Greece. The documentation of the male form was celebrated through the depiction of athletic competitions – where contests competed in the nude, battles and religious festivals in an unparalleled way. The Ancient Greeks deemed the male nude as the incarnation of all that was best in humanity, associating the male form – nude or otherwise – with power, triumph, glory, and even moral excellence. The image below demonstrates ancient greek men competing in the Olympic games.
The shift to Greco-Roman art saw the depiction of the ‘perfect’ human form. The depiction of males was that of health, youth, geometric clarity and greatly influenced the depiction of the male form through out the Renaissance movement. 'Vitruvian Man' 1487 by Leonardo da Vinci is a great example of the 'perfect' male form depicted through his study of the proportions of the male human body. The impressive muscular physiques of the man has been well documted in the depicted warriors, heros and gods in the biblical scenes of the Sistine Chapel.
The female nude
How women are portrayed in art tells much about the status and roles of women in society and the place where men have positioned them.
The representation of the female figure can be traced back as far as the early prehistoric art. As seen in the image below of 'Venus of Willendorf ' 24000 - 22000 bce, the female figure was once used as a symbolic representation of fertility and life-giving.
The female nude in later periods of art became the subject for male consumption. Female nude during the Renaissance was often depicted in homage to Venus or Aphrodite, often seen lying naked in a landscape or domestic interior. They were largely commissioned by wealthy men of the period where they would have their mistress pose for the paintings and kept as a reminder of female submission to men.
'The Venus of Urbino', 1538 by Titian.
Think, Investigate, Create
Consider the following questions and and answer in sentences:
- How do artists from Ancient to Renaissance art represent the female and male body?
- Are they for different purposes?
- In your personal opinion do you think this is fair?
- Looking at