Nude in Ancient Art

Nude in Ancient Art. Photo: Antikenmuseum Basel

The nude figure is a theme that has been deeply rooted in art since ancient times. Naked bodies of men, women and children are omnipresent in Oriental, Greek and Roman art. Gods, mythical figures, athletes or boys in gymnasia were often depicted naked on vases or as sculptures in Greek art, probably also in murals, but they have all disappeared. The kouroi were the first naked male sculptures from the seventh century BC, while female kouroi were always dressed. Women were always dressed in art afterwards, unless they played a less honorable role. The sculptor Praxiteles broke this taboo in the fourth century with the Aphrodite of Knidos, the most copied statue of antiquity. In older oriental art women/goddesses were depicted naked exclusively as a symbol of fertility. The exhibition deals with the representation of nudity in the Oriental Greek and Roman culture and its various associations, for example with immortality, fertility, religious holiness or the untouched state of nature.