Nudes and some classical motives in art history

The nude painting has been a most important subject since the beginning of the art history. Sometimes it caused scandals for different reasons, but more or less the painting or drawing of the nude body (mostly female) hasn’t been in question for centuries – it’s common praxis for a painter in the european cultural environment.

Above you see Edouard Manet‘s Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) – originally titled The Bath (Le Bain). It caused a major scandal at the Salon des Refusés in 1863 in Paris – though not because of the fact there was a nude woman but for the two fully dressed dandies sitting with her in the grass LOL! This unusual subject and the later “impressionistic” called style of painting caused lot’s of rumour and made Manet famous despite himself.
At the same time, Manet’s composition reveals his study of the old masters, as the disposition of the main figures is derived from Marcantonio Raimondis engraving Judgement of Paris (1515) after his copy from a drawing by Raphael.

In 1865 Manet‘s Olympia stirred an even bigger uproar when it was first exhibited at the Paris Salon. Conservatives condemned the work as “immoral” and “vulgar.” Journalist Antonin Proust later recalled,

“If the canvas of the Olympia was not destroyed, it is only because of the precautions that were taken by the administration.”

As he had in Luncheon on the Grass, Manet again paraphrased a respected work by a Renaissance artist in the painting Olympia (1863), whose pose was based on Titian‘s Venus of Urbino (1538). It depicts a nude young woman, identified with the goddess Venus, which in turn refers to Giorgione‘s Sleeping Venus (1510). The classic work that most closely resembles Manet’s in character is Francisco Goya‘s La maja desnuda (about 1800). It is sometimes said to be the first clear depiction of female pubic hair in Western art – however Lucas Cranach‘s painting ‘The Nymph of the Spring’ from around 1539 seems to show pubic hair as well.

Another Venus, the The Rokeby Venus (also known as Venus at her Mirror, Venus and Cupid, orLa Venus del espejo’) by Diego Velázquez (completed between 1647 and 1651) represents a further well-known pose in the history of painting.
It is the only surviving female nude by Velázquez, and one of only two such paintings in 17th-century Spanish art, which was often censored by the Spanish Inquisition. It was innovative in showing an athletic female nude form and it is this break that makes the painting provocative. Velasquez depicts the deity Venus shown from the backside – it represents the opposite to Goya‘s La maja desnuda and La maja vestida (1803) in order to exhbit it between the two.

Another favoured motive is the above mentioned Judgement of Paris – a composition often called The three Graces – mind the apple!
Most famous are the works of Lucas Cranach, Sandro Botticelli and last not least Raffael.

Though a special nude I want to point out here in this context is a in a 1st century fresco at Pompeii!!!

For nowaday’s nude censorship in the London tube and on myspace see my posts:
Lucas Cranach poster part II: MYSPACE censured the pic as well!
Lucas Cranach censured in London Tube!

Art Sunday is hosted by The Wicked Witch showing today the famous Cezanne bathing nudes 😉

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