Thank you for your inquiry, fictional viewer! How do you know if a painting is a Female Nude – that is, “Fine Art” – as opposed to anything “naked,” “inappropriate,” or “pornographic”? Here are a few questions you might ask yourself to assist you in determining the answer to your problem.
The theme is in a current Western environment.
(And when I say contemporary, I mean that it was painted at the time I am referring to.) When a subject is not painted in “reality,” it makes the nudity more secure since it is a fiction or creation rather than fact. An excellent approach to tell if the subject is in a legendary, ancient, non-Western, or otherwise exotic context is to look at the image’s background.
Lucas Cranach was a German painter who created this depiction of the nymph of the Castalian spring, which was a popular destination for philosophers and poets seeking inspiration. Because it is a fantasy novel set entirely inside a fictional universe, nudity is permitted. An early example of a popular trope: is the beautiful lady who acts as the muse for male geniuses who are creative in their own right.
A good example of Orientalist painting, which was popular throughout the nineteenth century and in which European painters would portray scenes from the Middle East, is seen here. In most cases, these situations were entirely implausible and replete with racial clichés. The Slave Market is total fiction, yet its exotic environment makes it acceptable to be naked.
Is the subject’s body completely hairless, and are their genitalia hidden from view?
Bodies with no visible genitalia or bodies with no visible genitalia give the subject an alien quality. Two features that indicate “real women” – body hair and genitalia – have been removed from the picture. Once again, let us look at some illustrations:
This is what the vaginal area of a Barbie doll seems to be like. Because the subject of this artwork is a reinterpretation of Aphrodite or Venus, the picture is situated in a mythical environment. The spring on which she stands is considered sacred by the Muses, and the ivy in her immediate vicinity represents Dionysus, the god of wine and passion. When the picture was originally displayed, it was met with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Even though Boucher created several extremely sexual pictures of naked women, the lack of hair and vaguely surreal situations in which these works were created make them more or less safe to be considered Nude in the eyes of the public.
Is the subject in a passive state?
This component is a little more difficult to identify, but what you have to look at is the method we are permitted to look at things. How much control do we have over the subject, and how much freedom do we have in how we approach them? The Nudes we’ve seen thus far are all passively reclining, sitting, or standing in an open invitation for the observer to have a closer look at them. Frequently, the subject will divert her look, occasionally throwing an arm over them to underline her passivity and enabling our gaze to travel freely and guilt-free across the room without interruption. Here are a few illustrations:
Although the girl is avoiding her look, draping one arm over her eyes, and reclining in a posture that opens up her body to the viewer’s gaze, this photograph is also one of the most flawless representations of a female nude on film. Cabanel could not have created a more fanciful scene or made his subject’s physique any more hairless if he had tried his hardest.