NGV Forum | How to look good naked – From Antiquity to the Renaissance

Forum: How to look good naked- From Antiquity to the Renaissance

GREECE / ITALY Torso of an athlete 1st century BC-1st century AD marble 102.6 x 52.1 x 27.4 cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, in memory of Professor A. D. Trendall, 1997

Sat 9 Nov, 1-3.30pm

Ancient Greeks Looking Good: Nudity, Clothing and Antiquities at the NGV

The ancient Greeks celebrated the body beautiful – which, for males at least, also meant the naked body. Men exercised and competed at athletic games in the nude, and their victories in both sport and war were commemorated with statues of idealised, perfectly formed nude bodies. Women in contrast were depicted clothed, until famously and scandalously the 4th century BC sculptor Praxiteles created the Aphrodite of Knidos, the first completely naked female sculpture. Painted vases show a similar obsession with idealised bodies, but also reveal a diversity of approaches to nudity: the comical side to nakedness, the ugliness as well as the erotic. This lecture places the NGV antiquities in their wider social context of ancient Greek attitudes to looking good naked and clothed and – given the associations of many of the objects and their imagery to the funerary sphere – looking good dead as well.

Speaker Dr Gillian Shepherd is Lecturer in Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Director of the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe University. Gillian studied Classics and Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne before going on to complete a PhD in Classical Archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge, followed by a research fellowship at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. Until her recent return to Australia to take up her position at La Trobe University, Gillian was Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her research interests are the ancient Greek colonisation of Sicily and Italy, burial customs, and the archaeology and art of Greece and Magna Graecia.

Being Naked in Early Modern Italy

Being naked in early Modern Italy was rare. Public nakedness was often used as a shaming device or as an instrument of repression and torture. The bodies of executed prisoners, for example, were hung from the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence naked, and the Jewish population of Rome was forced to run naked down the via del Corso during Carneval. But the Renaissance period also witnessed the emergence of the nude as a subject for painting and sculpture, the most famous example of which is Michelangelo’s monumental statue of David. Humanism reawakened interest in classical antiquity and the unclothed human body and the collecting of antique statues resulted in increasing familiarity on the part of Italian audiences with the idealised naked form. How this familiarity affected the ways in which artists painted both secular and devotional subjects during the period is one aspect of this talk, but it also asks how this exposure to classical examples may have affected more intimate relationships between men and women during the period.

Speaker Dr Lisa Beaven joined the School of Visual Arts and Design in Bendigo in 2003 as lecturer in Art and Visual Culture. In 2007 she transferred to the Bundoora campus of La Trobe University and joined the history program. She is now lecturer in Art history at Bundoora and teaches the first year course Art from Renaissance to Impressionism as well as courses on European art and travel and Baroque Art. She has also taught at Melbourne and Auckland Universities and was the 2008 Trendall Fellow at the British School at Rome. Lisa’s research interests are focused on seventeenth century Rome, with a particular interest in patronage and collecting. She is also interested in the issue of false relics, the relationship between the church and antiquarian circles in Rome, and patronage networks for landscape painting.

Date: Sat 9 Nov, 1-3.30pm

Venue: Clemenger BBDO Auditorium, NGV International

Free, all welcome.