Venus in Childbirth
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Tintoretto, “Susanna and the Elders”, 1555–1556, Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
Art, Art + Stories

Venus in Childbirth

Classic Nudes of Art History
Anna Arno
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The sight of a naked body is no longer scandalizing. But does it still inspire awe? We present art history’s most famous nudes.

In the nearest future, we should most likely not expect a serious scandal in the art world. We live in a somewhat blasé era: everything can be shown, and we have already seen it all. We can hardly expect artistic excitements related to the human body. The more carefully it is covered, inaccessible, religiously or socially restricted, the more desirable, but also ambiguous and suspicious, it becomes. Pornography – professional and amateur, in hundreds of varieties and categories – is instantly available. In the blue light of our screens we satisfy ourselves with naked bodies in all configurations. And yet, such intimate contemplation cannot compare with the experiences of the Ottoman diplomat Khalil Bey, who kept L’Origine du monde, in his bedroom, behind a green curtain.

Giorgione, “Sleeping Venus”, ca. 1510, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden

Gustave Courbet’s famous 1866 painting depicts the genitals and abdomen of a naked woman. The artist, following the entire realistic tradition, rendered anatomical detail with fleshy strokes and, simultaneously, with cool precision. French researchers recently discovered that Khalil Bey’s mistress, the dancer Constance Queniaux, sat for the painting. The model is unrecognizable. Her face is not visible, but her vulva is exposed, including pubic hair, which has always been taboo in painting. The framing and attention to detail are the most obscene elements of the painting: Courbet depicted what, until then, painters had covered with a loincloth, or justified by mythological or historical context. It is not so much a faceless woman, but her objectified body. We are

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A Springtime Artist
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"House with a Bay Window in the Garden", Egon Schiele, 1907 r./Wikiart (domena publiczna)
Art, Art + Stories

A Springtime Artist

The Centenary of Egon Schiele
Stach Szabłowski

Egon Schiele used to say that “everything is living death”. Springtime, with its awakening of living things, fuels my appetite for all things unhealthy, especially unhealthy art.

As time goes by, I find myself liking the work of Egon Schiele more and more, even though – having first been considered incriminatory, and then feted – it is becoming risqué again. There can be no fun without risk. Besides, it’s not only sickly art that can be seen as threatening; life itself is a terribly unwell affair, and it’s impossible to go through it without falling ill from time to time. Schiele, a proponent of unhealthy vitality, would have had plenty to say on the subject.

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