A groundbreaking movement which reformed the cultural, social, religious and political currents in global terms was undoubtedly the Renaissance. After the dark ages saturated with wars, great fatigues, and plague came the age of reason, when wondrous minds appeared and revolutionized practically every aspect of human activity. It had to do with the rise of secular society and fascination with the Classical antiquity. In regards to that, the very perception of love, sensuality, and corporeality changed, and this naturally reflected in the field of visual arts.
That is how the display of the nude body became an omnipresent motif adored by the painters and sculptors. In order to show how this trend developed, during the upcoming year, the Royal Academy of Arts will present an exhibition called The Renaissance Nude.
The nude flourished in Renaissance Europe between 1400 and 1530, and it changed the visual paradigm so much that it even became an integral part of artistic training. Interestingly so, this particular genre appeared in both sacred and secular contexts - from small, intimate objects to elaborate and grandiose decorative church and palazzo compositions.
In 1541, Michelangelo finished his iconic large-scale composition Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The mural was oozing with nude representations and although it was initially considered a huge success, shortly after the artist’s death in 1564 Pope Pius IV ordered concealing draperies to be painted over some of the figures since the decorum changed.
Around ninety works by masters such as Lucas Cranach the Elder, Albrecht Dürer, Jan Gossaert, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci in a variety of media and from different regions of Europe will be arranged thematically so that it can show how a dynamic visual tradition emerged.
Through fine themes, the audience will be able to follow the development of the genre within the given time frame. The first one The Nude and Christian Art will focus the Old and New Testament sequences which enabled the artists to depict the nude figure. The following one, titled Humanism and the Expansion of Secular Themes, will explore the appropriation of the Antique, while Artistic Theory and Practice will show the early explorations of life human anatomy and proportion.
The fourth theme Beyond the Ideal Nude will examine the vulnerability of the human condition, and the final section, Personalising the Nude, will underline the significance of Renaissance patrons such as Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua, one of the few female patrons of the time.
The upcoming exhibition will reveal the impact the nude made on visual arts of the time, and will as well accentuate that Renaissance was the first truly modern phenomenon, imposing the humanist culture, new artistic attitudes, and spiritual beliefs.
The exhibition is curated by Thomas Kren, Senior Curator Emeritus at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in collaboration with Per Rumberg, Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, and will be accompanied by an extensive catalog published by Getty Publications.
The Renaissance Nude will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from 3 March until 2 June 2019.
Featured images: Antonio Pollaiuolo - Battle of the Nudes, 1470s. Engraving, 42 x 60.9 cm. The Albertina Museum, Vienna; Raphael - The Three Graces, c. 1517-18. Red chalk on paper, 20.3 x 25.8 cm. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019. All images courtesy the Royal Academy.