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forming a subject genre of art, in the same way as landscapes and still life.
Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting, including allegorical and religious art, portraiture, or the decorative arts.
Christian attitudes cast doubt on the value of the human body, and the Christian emphasis on chastity and celibacy further discouraged depictions of nakedness, even in the few surviving Early Medieval survivals of secular art.
Completely unclothed figures are rare in medieval art, the notable exceptions being Adam and Eve and the damned in Last Judgement scenes, and the ideal forms of Greco-Roman nudes are completely lost, transformed into symbols of shame and sin, weakness and defenselessness.
Male nudes tended to be slim and slight in figure, probably drawing on apprentices used as models, but were increasingly accurately observed.
The rediscovery of classical culture in the Renaissance restored the nude to art.
The nude figure drawing or figure study of a live model rapidly became an important part of artistic practice and training, and remained so until the 20th century.
Peter Paul Rubens, who with evident delight painted women of generous figure and radiant flesh, gave his name to the adjective rubenesque.Michelangelo's suspiciously boyish Study of a Kneeling Nude Girl for The Entombment (Louvre, c.1500), which is usually said to be the first nude female figure study, predates this and is an example of how even figures who would be shown clothed in the final work were often worked out in nude studies, so that the form under the clothing was understood.The earliest Greek sculpture, from the early Bronze Age Cycladic civilization consists mainly of stylized male figures who are presumably nude.This is certainly the case for the kouros, a large standing figure of a male nude that was the mainstay of Archaic Greek sculpture.
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The monumental female nude returned to Western art in 1486 with The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli for the Medici family, who also owned the classical Venus de' Medici, whose pose Botticelli adapted. 1510), also drawing on classical models, showed a reclining female nude in a landscape, beginning a long line of famous paintings including the Venus of Urbino (Titian, 1538), the Rokeby Venus (Diego Velázquez, c. In addition to adult male and female figures, the classical depiction of Eros became the model for the naked Christ child.