Right now at the Getty Center there is an all-new exhibit titled “The Renaissance Nude”. It is no surprise that the word “nude” captures people’s attention, but the Los Angeles Times called it, “One of the 10 most engaging exhibitions of the year.”

Apollo and Daphnis, about 1495, Perugino (Pietro Vannucci), oil on poplar. Musée du Louvre, Paris, Département des Peintures. Image © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo: Gérard Blot

The exhibit highlights the pivotal moments in which the Renaissance artists transformed the course of western art history by making the nude a central figure in their art. By drawing inspiration from classical sculpture and the study of the live model, these artists created lifelike, vibrant, and sensual representations of the human body.

Saint Jerome, 1460–70, Donatello, polychrome wood. Pinacoteca Comunale, Faenza. Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY

One of the major themes of the exhibit is the link between Christianity and the Nude. Between the periods of 1400-1530 C.E., art played a key role in Catholic worship and instruction. Religious images could be seen on church walls and facades, on altars, and in liturgical and devotional books. The central figure, Jesus Christ, the son of God and redeemer of humankind according to Christian belief, was depicted mostly unclothed with revealing signs of his physical persecution and crucifixion. At the turn of the Renaissance however, artists began to take interest in the close study of nature, from plants and animals to human bodies, by looking back into Greek and Roman art. This made the representation of Christian subjects more immediate and accessible, but also more palpable and sensual (and potentially discomfiting). But despite the rise of these kinds of depictions of secular subjects, Christian subjects continued to dominate artistic production throughout the Renaissance.

The Temptation of Adam and Eve, about 1510, Lucas Cranach the Elder, oil on panel. National Museum, Warsaw. Image courtesy of the Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie

This exhibit features more than 100 works by Renaissance artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Dürer, and others.

The Renaissance Nude is exhibiting at the Getty Center now through January 27th, 2019. The Getty Center is free and open to the public.

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