"The Nude" explores some of the principal ways that paintings of the nude function in the conflicted terrain of culture and society in Europe and America from the fifteenth through twentieth centuries, as set against questions about human sexuality that emerge around differences of class, gender, age, and race. Author Richard Leppert relates the visual history of how the naked body intersects with the foundational characteristics of what it is to be human, measured against a range of basic emotions (happiness, delight, and desire; fear, anxiety, and abjection) and read in the context of changing social and cultural realities. The bodies comprising the Western nude are variously pleasured or tormented, ecstatic or bored, pleased or horrified. In short, as this volume amply demonstrates, the nude in Western art is a terrain on whose surface is written a summation of Western history: its glory but also its degradation.
The Cultural Rhetoric of the Body in the Art of Western Modernity