As part of a larger study on the mainstreaming of pornography in contemporary film and television, this essay attempts to examine and extend our vocabulary for discussing visual representations of the human body by revisiting Kenneth Clark’s important study The Nude from 1972. Clark’s book provides a history of the male and female nude in two- and three-dimensional art from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Renaissance and beyond. This essay focuses on places within his analysis that are especially generative for understanding pornography such as the importance of placing the nude form within a narrative (Venus is emerging from her bath, for example) or attempts by artists to suggest movement within static forms. The essay places Clark’s rich typology in conversation with other thinkers, such as Fredric Jameson, Erwin Panofsky, E. H. Gombrich, and Michel Foucault. The piece ends with a discussion of androgyny and hermaphroditism as they relate to the expression of gender in plastic art, especially the notion that all representations of the body necessarily include a gender spectrum within one figure. Artists whose work is looked at in some detail include Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Donatello.
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