‘Vanity’, c.1485–90, by Hans Memling, left, and ‘Hell’, 1450, by Dirk Bouts, right.
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Full of lovely paintings that might lead you astray: The Renaissance Nude reviewed
Even during the heyday of Michelangelo and Raphael depictions of naked human bodies were not necessarily all about art

Early in the 16th century, Fra Bartolomeo painted an altarpiece of St Sebastian for the church of San Marco in Florence. Though stuck full of arrows, the martyr was, according to Vasari, distinctly good-looking in this picture: ‘sweet in countenance, and likewise executed with corresponding beauty of person’. By and by the friars of San Marco discovered through the confessional that this image was giving rise to ‘light and evil thoughts’ among women in the congregation.

‘Vanity’, c.1485–90, by Hans Memling, left, and ‘Hell’, 1450, by Dirk Bouts, right.
‘Vanity’, c.1485–90, by Hans Memling, left, and ‘Hell’, 1450, by Dirk Bouts, right.

It was removed and eventually sold to the King of France (who was presumably less bothered by that sort of thing). So even during the heyday of Michelangelo and Raphael depictions of human bodies without any clothes were not necessarily all about art. This is one of the themes of The Renaissance Nude, a truly marvellous exhibition at the Royal Academy. This show is packed with lovely things to look at. There are beautiful bodies aplenty, and the roster of artists includes many of the great names in painting and sculpture — Dürer, Titian, Raphael, Signorelli, Memling. As a visitor, that’s really all you need to know.

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Source: The Spectator

Original publication 23 March 2019

Posted on NatCorn 22nd March 2019

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