The following observations on Man without Clothes are my views on how men have been portrayed in art and photography over the centuries. I have no academic credentials in art or photography. My aim here in not to judge or condemn any man's artistic work. Rather, I am simply pointing out how artists, past and present, have dealt with sex in general and nude men in particular. -Ron
INDEX:Gallery Two: Click Here
Gallery Three: Click Here
Gallery Four: Click Here
My View on Good Art: Click Here
The ancients, at least the enlightened ones, had no problem with male nudity. Greek statues and pottery fragments of naked males have survived to our times and continue to delight us both artistically and sexually. The statue of Apollo to the left has been vandalized of limbs and penis, but the sexual and artistic beauty of the work remain strong and appealing. A typical ancient drawing of Apollo can also be seen by clicking on: Apollo and the Muse.
For some reason many cultures east of Greece were extraordinarily threatened by nakedness. The Hebrews considered nudity as a state of innocence from which man had fallen when he/she attempted not to be innocent. The Adam and Eve story promotes this view in the opening chapters of The Bible. The writers of those ancient religious doctrines came down hard on both man's advancement and any attempt for him to retreat to naked innocence. Man/women had to suffer, work hard, sweat a lot, and wear clothes all the while. That was the punishment for not being innocent. There is suppose to be a moral in all this, which may escape intelligent thinking, but those dedicated to cryptic creeds still shun nudity like sin.
Early Christians "cottoned" to wearing clothes. All around them they saw Roman soldiers who, when off duty in their camps or barracks, routinely wore no clothes. Additional, slaves came without clothes and were commonly seen naked in both in the markets and streets. Also, men competed totally nude in public as did the Greek Wrestlers.
In Christian practice, nudity was a no-no from the start, and it stayed taboo throughout Europe during the Catholic dominated Dark and Middle Ages. (The Arabs also had a thing against showing the human body, and even now in the hottest places on earth, they continue to wrap up from head to toe.) While condemning nudity, the Medieval Church would let it slip in the back door in religious artwork. Hundreds of stained glass windows and paintings across Europe showed naked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden or fleeing after "the fall." Some of the most sensual are those of the two Before the Fall.
In truth, the Romans stripped a man of his clothes and allowed him to die nailed nude to a cross. This was too much reality for a church dominated society. Hence, thousands of religious paintings show that death scene with a scant loincloth hiding the nudity of Jesus. Typical is The Crucifixion by Van Soest Konrad.
Since most people could not read or write in medieval Europe, art work served as their only books. Looking on a great painting or sculpture was for the average believer an entertaining, learning, and religious experience. Definitely, it was not without its sexual gratification. Modern advertising often sells its products by sexual stimuli. It is a page taken from the books of ancient artists. Suffering saints provided heavenly morals while allowing the believer to behold the earthly delights of a nearly nude body. The homoerotic needs of gay Christians have been satisfied for centuries by paintings of the sexy body shot full of arrows of a man named St. Sebastian.
For the non-gay art lover, some of the sexiest paintings involved the saints and Mary. One in Madrid shows the mother of Jesus bearing her breast to an elderly holy man who looks on her pap while his hands lurks dangerously close to her celebrated virgin area. (This is painting is not shown here because the Prado Museum will not post it on the web.) Another painting shows a statue of the Virgin Mary shooting a long stream of milk from her stony breast into a saint's mouth, The Vision of St. Bernard.
Many a medieval art lover was rewarded with a religious experience and/or a hardon as was his wont. Religious art was often thinly disguised pornography which even an illiterate person could read and enjoy.
With the coming of the Renaissance, gay artists like Michelangelo re-introduced the beauty of the nude body in general, and the naked man in particular. His marble statue of Jesus with the cross is one, if not the only statue, where the sculptor had the task of carving the genitals of Jesus from stone. Unfortunately, modern people of poor taste have wrapped cloth around the crotch area. See Crucifixion in Stone.
In 1492 Michelangelo also did a crucifixion in wood which portrayed the gory event as it really happen: Jesus is shown naked in The Crucifixion. His huge statue, The David, and the frescos on Sistine Chapel continue to arouse the ire and penises of both the religious and the profane.
The Renaissance was marked by a re-discovery of the ancient art and myths of Rome and Greece. This must have been a god send to artists and sculptors who were surely burned out painting and sculpting Biblical Characters whose chaste lives gave little excitement to their work and less enthusiasm to buyers and viewers. The Greek and Roman myths and gods, on the other hand, were filled with excitement, greed, vice, rape, conquest, and plenty of nudity. The Twelve Tasks of Hercules alone provided artists with abundant material for paintings and statues, and none is more sexually intriguing than Hercules Wresting Antaeus.
Grudgingly, western culture came to acceptance of nudity as long as it was "artistic" in nature. Usually, "artistic" meant the nudes had to be ancient Greeks, Romans, or women from any time in history. Men who were in control of all powers -political, social, and religious- allowed female nude paintings and statues. Since men believed that God made women for their sexual pleasure and having babies, it was acceptable to see women without clothes in works of art. Until the coming of photography there were few if any nude males portraits to be found. Those people wanting nudes of men were either women or homosexuals, neither of which had powers to obtain them. All this was to change in the 19th Century. When a man had a camera in his hands, he did not need a brush to paint or a chisel to carve a nude man. He had only to keep the camera steady while snapping the photo, but first he had to find a willing subject.
Men willing to pose nude (or nearly so) appeared on the scene in the early 19th Century. They were weight lifters and body builders. These were men who had tremendous bodies and did their sport hindered by as little clothes as possible. When they posed first for drawings and later for photos, it was only right that they should do so practically nude to show off the bodies they had worked to develop. Male-dominated society was able to accept drawings of nude men. After all, these men were "he men." They were "real men" and secretly the envy of all men, straight and gay.
When the camera was readily available, the amount of nude male pictures took a quantum leap. First there were the body builders, followed by wannabes, the athletes, and then the "artistic pictures" of males. Many in the last category are amusing to the modern eye, for here we see 19th Century men trying their best to look like Ancient Greeks or Roman while often sporting a semi hard penis. These were pictures of men carrying a shield, or brandishing a sword, or posed about to throw a disc, or holding on to some phallic symbol.
At first the pictures were of men by themselves, but soon there were pictures of two men engaged in combat or wrestling like the ancient Greeks. Again, these pictures were acceptable because they were "artistic," and they were pictures of strong men who carried weapons, had muscles, and fought. Never mind that the photos reeked of homoeroticism. That the models were often homosexual never entered the minds of the straight men who viewed them. The nudes were always seen through the eyes of a society that did not have a clue that homosexuals were as manly as the models that posed nude. The camera must have seemed a godsend for gay men. With the coming of photography, masturbation suddenly got a lot better.
Photos of naked youths were early steps toward portraying nude males. What could be more innocent than country boys swimming in a pond or a creek? No matter that their dicks were larger than usual from the fun of being naked together or the grab ass that took place in passing.
In the minds of most Victorians, youth equaled innocence. Hence, youthful photos of a classical nature, no matter how homoerotic, passed muster for morals. My all time favorite in this category comes from a 1900 photograph of two youths stretched out completely nude (save for sandals) by an ancient wall.
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