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Male Nudes in Art HistoryTop 10 Male Nude Figures in Sculpture & Painting (600 BCE – Present). MAIN A-Z INDEX – A-Z of PAINTING
ContentsGreek Art • Roman Art • Byzantine Art • Medieval European Art • Renaissance Art • Baroque Art • Rococo and Neoclassical Art • 19th-Century Art • 20th-Century Art • Top-10 Male Nudes in the History of Art• See also the greatest Female Nudes in Art History (Top 20).
An Ignudo from The Genesis frescoSistine Chapel. By Michelangelo.
Male Nudes in Greek Art The first major culture to celebrate the importance of the male nude statue was that of ancient Greece, whose religious festivals frequently included athletic competitions in which young nude males demonstrated their physical prowess and competed for significant honours. Greek art mirrored Greek life, and thus from the early Archaic Age (600-500 BCE) the standing nude youth ( kouros) became a regular image in the sculptural iconography of Classical Antiquity.
Some of the most famous male nudes were sculpted by unknown artists. They include: The Farnese Heracles (5th Century BCE), the fabulously balanced Zeus of Artemision (c.470), The Belvedere Apollo (330), The Dying Gaul (240) and the semi-relief The Barberini Faun (220). The greatest known Greek sculptors of standing male nude statues include: Polykleitos (5th century), Phidias (c.488-431 BCE), Myron (Active 480-444 BCE), Praxiteles (Active 375-335 BCE), and also Hagesandrus, Athenodoros & Polydorus (1st-2nd century BCE, creators of Laocoon and His Sons).
Adam and Eve (1932) Private Collection. Art Deco Nudesby Tamara de Lempicka.
VISUAL ARTS CATEGORIESDefinitions, forms, styles, genres, periods, see: Types of Art.
Greek sculpture created a huge number of male nude statues ( kouroi), representing either ordinary individuals – created as votive offerings for Gods in religious sanctuaries – or the Gods themselves.
It’s important to realize that in creating nude men and women, Greek sculptors were typically celebrating an ideal- an ideal state of health, youth, and geometric proportion – rather than the physicality of a naked individual. Thus the Greek male nude was created to appeal to the mind rather than the senses.
While the Greeks admired and celebrated the male nude in both sculpture and painting, other parts of the ancient world took a very different view, and considered nakedness to be a sign of disgrace, and military defeat.
Male Nudes in Roman Art Although artists in ancient Rome were slavish imitators of the Greeks whom they considered to be far superior in all the visual arts, especially sculpture, they also followed the Roman doctrine that art should serve the interests of Rome, and promote its power. Nude Emperors were not likely to impress Barbarian tribesman, but tall, imposing soldiers might. Thus in Roman art, with some exceptions, idealized nudity was replaced with political and military imagery, exuding realism and gravitas.
FINE ART RESOURCESFor oils, watercolours, acrylics, see: Fine Art Painting.For plastic artworks, see: Sculpture Art.For the greatest painters, see:Best Artists of All Time.For the top 3-D artists, see:Greatest Sculptors.
EVOLUTION OF SCULPTUREFor details of the origins anddevelopment of the plastic artssee: History of Sculpture.
Male Nudes in Byzantine Art Unfortunately for admirers of the kouros and the kore, and nude art in general, Christianity largely put a stop to it. A semi-nude Christ on the Cross was fine, but in general, Jesus, God, the apostles, other masculine Christian images, were depicted wearing clothes. This was in line with Gospel scripture and the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, whose nakedness was associated with shame and punishment. It also fitted with the general notion that nudity was seen as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the individual. The fact that nearly all Byzantine art was religious meant that nudity was even less acceptable. Occasional non-religious classical themes, such as those illustrated on a number of Byzantine ivory caskets, might include male nude imagery – sometimes quite detailed – but these were the exception. For more, see: Christian Art of the Byzantine Era (c.400-1200).