Thu, May 6, 2010
*Possibly not safe for work.
Today a man can easily conjure the image of a naked woman with the click of a button (if his hands are free). But hundreds of years ago, it wasn’t so simple for our technologically inferior ancestors. Men had to physically leave their candle-lit man-caves to find images of naked ladies. They had to travel far and wide to find the ancient version of a pornographic theater: the museum. It was in the safe confines of a museum that a man could successfully disguise his perverseness.
You see, painting, much like the internet, was only invented to display porn. Sure, both painting and the internet could have been created for practical purposes, such as immortalizing events, depicting stories, distributing important information, or embedding secret codes that no one can decipher without the assistance of Tom Hanks. But they knew it was way easier to showcase naked ladies instead.
Similar to today, however, men didn’t think women were beautiful enough. So artists enhanced, touched up, softened, glorified and air-brushed them to near perfection like an old world Photoshop. Yes, men were looks-centric, superficial bastards even back then. But it’s far easier for a man to make a woman look smoother, silkier, and overall faker, today than it was hundreds of years ago. Back then, it was an arduous, timely and meticulous task to craft beauty.
That’s why some of the women depicted in old paintings look far sexier than the Photoshopped women of the internet age. Want proof? Here is a list of the sexiest paintings ever made and where you can find them…
“The Rokeby Venus” by Diego Velázquez (c. 1647–51)
I often wonder if some men became artists just to get women to take their clothes off in the privacy of their study… for free. It’s like they were the Joe Francis’ of their time, but instead of a video camera and a “Girls Gone Wild” t-shirt, they had a paint brush. Painting nudes was frowned upon in seventeenth-century Spain when Velázquez was a member of the court of Philip IV, so he high tailed it to Rome to paint this painting, where moral standards were a little looser. The only surviving female nude by Velázquez can be found at the National Gallery in London.
“The Wave And The Pearl” by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry (c. 1828 – 1886)
If Playboy existed in nineteenth-century France, this chick would have been a prime candidate for Centerfold of the Year. I imagine many conversations like this taking place between husbands and wives back then:
Wife: “Honey, we have to go to the market to get –”
Husband: “Let’s go to the museum!”
One of Baudry’s most famous paintings, you can see it at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
“Venus of Urbino” by Titian (1538)
I’m not gonna lie, I laughed a little when I saw that this nude was painted by a guy named Titian. Italian painters such as he were able to get away with painting rich chicks naked as long as they threw the name “Venus” in the title; that’s what distinguished it as art. Mark Twain called this painting “the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses,” leading me to question his sexual orientation. He goes on to say that the painting “is a trifle too strong for any place but a public art gallery,” which is totally proof that museums were the old school version of a peep show and probably explains why so many men collected art. If you get a chance to see this painting at the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy, let me know if the girl in the white dress in the background is vomiting in that chest.
“Mars And Venus” by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1483)
Some have called this painting by Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli one of the sexiest paintings of all time. I can tell you who doesn’t agree: women. That statement was obviously made by a man because this painting is totally unflattering. Clearly this is an honest assessment of the uncomfortable situation following premature ejaculation. This painting is like a 500-year old version of “American Pie”. Think about it: the girl never got her clothes off… and he’s already sleeping. Look at the disappointment on her face. It’s obvious this dude finished early and now he’s trying to sleep off his embarrassment. If you visit this painting at the National Gallery in London, look closely: I think she’s subtly giving him the finger.
“Gabrielle D’Estrees and Her Sister, the Duchess of Villars” by Unknown (c. 1594)
Oh, snap! Old world soft core. Okay, not really. Apparently this painting isn’t as dirty as I want to believe. It’s actually a symbolic announcement that Gabrielle d’Estrées, mistress of King Henry IV of France, is pregnant, and her sister pinches her nipples to show people who may have been unclear where milk comes from. The woman in the background sewing clothes for a new baby corroborates this, effectively crushing my hopes of calling this the first painting that visualizes every male’s fantasy. Get up close to the titty twisting sisters at the Louvre in Paris.
“Grande Odalisque” by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1814)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this woman has a backside that gives Kim Kardashian a run for her money. Sure, she’s got a few extra vertebrae, but remember that guys were chubby chasers back in the day. That’s because women with curves were not only capable of delivering children, they were wealthy enough to eat. Times have changed. Now women considered attractive are the skinny ones who are wealthy enough to afford liposuction, personal trainers, and Pinkberry as a diet. Enjoy looking at this anatomically incorrect woman at the Louvre in Paris.
“Olympia” by Édouard Manet (1863)
I think what makes this painting so hot is the woman’s sheer cockiness. She may be a little short and stubby, but she totally believes she’s got it going on. She thinks she’s the hottest chick in France. Even the servant is like, “Dayum! ‘Dis bitch look good!” She doesn’t have a care in the world. She’s just letting it all hang out, enjoying the high life, letting someone else do all the work, enjoying the comforts of 1,000-thread count sheets and over-sized goose feather pillow, terrifying her black cat. Clearly the servant is bringing the woman a bouquet of flowers sent by a male suitor. But does she care? Nope. She probably received ten other bouquets earlier in the day. If a guy wants a shot with her, he needs to be more original than that. Try your best at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
“La Cigale” by Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1872)
Lefebvre wasn’t what you would call “a looker.” He kinda looked like that strange guy at the end of the bar whose only companion is flies. But Lefebvre was a smart guy. He knew the only way to gain the company of women willing to take their clothes off was to become a painter. That became his niche. Most of Lefebvre’s paintings depicted beautiful naked women in sexy poses. And the world is better and safer for his efforts. Many of his paintings can be considered amongst the sexiest in history, but “La Cigale,” currently housed at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, might be the most fulfilling thanks to that girl-next-door-playing-shy look that drives men crazy (though the absence of a vagina is disturbing; she’s like a Barbie doll).
“La Fornarina” by Raphael (1518-1519)
Artists weren’t shy about painting their mistresses back in the day. In fact, that’s probably how they got away with it. It was the perfect excuse. Their wives probably thought they kept the doors to their work room closed because they needed to concentrate on their art, when in reality they wanted privacy with their mistresses. Raphael’s painting, housed at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome, depicts his mistress, Margherita Luti, a bakeress who likely buttered Raphael’s toast while his wife sat in the next room unsuspecting. Today, celebrities aren’t as good at covering up their affairs.
“La Maja Desnuda” by Francisco Goya (c. 1797 – 1800)
First she’s clothed…
Now she isn’t!
Like sexy magic. It’s unclear why Goya drew two versions of the same woman in the same pose — or who the woman even was for that matter — but Goya may have been the first guy to create a visual representation of what all guys think to themselves when they see an attractive woman: “I wonder what she looks like naked?” Scholars say that this was the first time a woman’s pubic hair was clearly displayed in a large Western painting. As a result of his indecency, Goya was fired as the Spanish court painter by the Inquisition. Yet somehow his painting survived while others were destroyed, probably because even members of the Inquisition knew the painting was super sexy. Today you can view it at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.
What’s the sexiest painting you’ve ever seen and where can we find it?