“Nudity is the dramatic point or the intersection between the natural and the sky, the ideal and the real, the carnal and the spiritual, ultimately, between the body and the soul.”
(Francisco Calvo Serraller)
The nude is one of the genres most treated in the world of art and therefore one of the oldest subjects of art history, documented from prehistory up to the present day. There are several artists who have approached this issue going to conceive the naked body as a seductive image, sometimes provocative, but also as a symbol of purity, freedom, or even a vehicle of symbolic meanings related to the discomfort and conflict between body and soul.
In a sense the nude is a work of art and its primary purpose is that to bring to the attention of the gaze of the viewer the essential and original nakedness of the human body, which forms, on this occasion, the only object of artistic genre, in the same way in which the subject of landscape painting is precisely the landscape and that of still life is the inanimate object.
The evolution of the history of nude can be considered parallel to that of the history of art in its generality, taking into account the different level of acceptance of nudity scenes by the various forms of society and culture that have occurred in the world during the course of centuries and millennia.
The nude is an artistic theme that represents, primarily within the media of painting and sculpture, but more recently also in photography and cinema, the shape of the human body naked or half-naked, and that has suffered, over the centuries, various interpretations and meanings: from that inherent to mythology and religion, to the study of anatomy or, finally, even that of the ideal of Beauty and aesthetic perfection, as for example in the figurative art of ancient Greece.
During the Middle Ages the artistic representation was limited to the more specifically religious themes and treated by theology, based on biblical passages; only in this way it could be justified the yield in the various forms of art.
With the start of the Renaissance from the middle of the fifteenth century, the new culture derived from Humanism took a direction decidedly geared towards an ever increasing anthropocentrism; this led to the great return of the nude art after long centuries of concealment, putting beside the usual religious subjects of previous centuries even those historical-mythological, dating back to paganism.
It was then in the nineteenth century, especially with the Impressionism, that the nude began to lose its eminently iconographic character and to be represented in its aesthetic qualities much more simply profane: the naked image, sensual and self referential, prevailed gradually.
In contemporary or post modern times the nude is considered by some artists as hopelessly backward-looking, although there are many who continue to find inspiration in the form of the naked human body, trying to represent it in its universality, bearer of emotions and values related to the intimate essence of every man.