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Art’s naked truth July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.

The Greeks were one of the earliest civilizations to use the unclothed human body to depict the majesty, power and beauty of mankind.

This view was based on a humanistic philosophy that honors Man as the measure and core of their beliefs. The body was revealed with little emphasis on sexuality though if you look carefully one can find prancing satyrs on Greek pottery.

During the Medieval period came the influence of early Christianity. Often the human body was carefully covered from neck to ankles and the body itself seemed to disappear under the drapery.

The exception is the heart-stopping crucifixions of Christ whose body poignantly expresses his suffering. Beautiful religious art was created for the Byzantine and Romanesque Churches and eventually the sublime Gothic Cathedrals.

Historically, the Renaissance follows; the word means “rebirth,” indicating the return to Greek Humanistic values. Once again Biblical characters were depicted, both barely clothed or at times luxuriously appointed in silks and brocades to reveal earthly wealth. Often Greek myths were the subject of works of art and were presented for all and everyone to see, even in churches.

In traditional African art nude carved wooden figures are meant to represent human fertility, but they also address the cycle of life and death, the reciprocity and complementary balance of feminine and masculine and a worshipful attitude toward an unseen higher reality. Some pieces are “dressed” not to cover their lovely bodies, but to add magic using feathers, shells, fabrics, beads, etc. This was done to connect the sculpture with the world of nature, spirit and ancestry. Rarely is there a hint of pornography or the desire to incite prurient interest. 

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