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Apr 8, 2015

5 Must-see Fine Art Nudes in Rome.

1. Esquiline Venus (Capitoline Museums).
Nudes in art date from the Paleolithic age when curvy and bumper statuettes carved in stone, female bodies with abundant breasts, were regarded as symbols of fertility (Venus of Willendorf, c. 28,000 B.C.E–25,000 B.C.E.)                        

Aesthetically the representation of the naked body over the centuries is the result of different cultural systems.

In Greece, in the V century B.C. the anatomy of the human body becomes the object of scientific studies and Polykleitos provides a 'code': his aesthetic theories for artistic perfection being based on mathematics. Ancient Greeks competed naked or covered only by a thong.  Athletes became models: nudity immortalized by artists, such as Myron, a promise of perfection and beauty. 

In the Middle Ages, this conception faces a metamorphosis due to Christianity and if the body becomes the sacred urn of the spirit, it could nevertheless lead to sin and damnation.
For Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo the nude is a symbol of purity,  based on classic models, refined by the study of human anatomy and alluding to strength and spiritual courage (Michelangelo's David). 

2. Hermaphroditus
(Palazzo Massimo).

In 1545, the Council of Trent marks the end of freedom to represent the nude in art and artists are encouraged to be inspired by biblical stories. In 1559, Pope Paul IV ordered to cover Michelangelo's nudes in the Last Judgement. Through art the clergy tries to control 'heretical' ideas.

3. One of Michelangelo's
Sistine Chapel

In the 17th century, the attitude is controversial: 'sacred' and 'profane' coexist in artists like Caravaggio or Bernini. 
One century later naked human figures must be based, according to Winckelmann, on the ideals of Greek art with its fixed proportions for beauty. Repressive social conventions are rejected. Canova's conception of nudity in one of his major works, Paolina Borghese, reflects the tradition of ancient Rome, portraying a mortal as a goddess. It's still debated whether Napoleon's sister really posed nude as a model.
4. Bernini's Rape of Proserpina
Borghese Gallery.

5. Canova's Paolina Bonaparte
Borghese Gallery.

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