The Renaissance’s Love Affair With the Nude Gets a Provocative Show at the Getty. See the Highlights Here
'The Renaissance Nude' explores the development of a genre.
In Europe, the Renaissance was fueled by newly rediscovered classical sculpture, taking inspiration from the naturalism of antiquity. It also made the scientific study of anatomy a central part of painting for the first time. Both of these strands came together in one theme in particular—the nude—and an important new show at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, “The Renaissance Nude,” gives the subject the serious treatment it deserves.
With over 100 masterpieces from Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands made between the early 15th century to the early 16th century, the Getty show offers a comprehensive survey of one of the central preoccupations in European art. And while painting and sculpture take center stage, the show also includes drawings, manuscripts, and prints, showing how the study of the human form manifested in different realms.
“We felt that in telling the story of the nude, something transformational had to be done through really major examples,” curator Thomas Kren told artnet News in a call. “It’s not like we wanted to do a masterpieces show—we didn’t. But to show the range of achievement for this subject, we had to keep the standard high.”
The highlights are many. They include a Jean Fouquet painting of the virgin and child (ca. 1450), on loan from Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Arts; Antonio da Correggio’s Danaë, (1531) on loan from Rome’s Borghese gallery; and Antonello da Messina’s depiction of St. Sebastian (1476–1477).
The curatorial team tried to cast their net as wide as possible to show the range and evolution of the genre, Kren explained.
“The goal was to try to show the ways in which there were these formal or thematic links. In fact, a lot was shared despite regional and stylistic differences, so in a way we were more focused on the thematic,” he said. “But we also had a built-in limitation: We were trying to find subjects that were represented across Europe.”
Thus, for example, “The Renaissance Nude” contains a number of different examples of the St. Sebastian theme, including works by Messina, Moderno, and Hans Holbein the Elder. As the patron saint of the Plague-stricken, St. Sebastian saw a spike in popularity as as the deadly illness spread around the continent.
Similarly, depictions of Venus were found all around Europe in the 1520s. Artworks featuring the Greek goddess of love include paintings by Jan Gossart (ca. 1521) and Titian (ca. 1520), whose sumptuous Venus Rising from the Sea is a highlight of the show.
“We were looking for subjects that were ultimately pan-European,” Kren summarized.
See other examples of artworks featured in “The Renaissance Nude,” below.
“The Renaissance Nude” is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, through January 27, 2019.
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