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Female Nudes

4 min read
Female Nudes

The Metropolitan Museum houses a large collection of artworks depicting female nudes. These artworks date back to antiquity and span a wide range of cultures and styles. The nude figure has been a source of inspiration for artists for centuries, and the artworks in The Metropolitan Museum provide a window into the different ways that artists have represented the nude body throughout history.

The Dream of the Shepherd (Der Traum des Hirten)

Swiss, Bern 1853–1918 Geneva / The Met

    In the lower, terrestrial portion of this composition, the shepherd kneels in an Alpine landscape, while in the upper, celestial portion, a vision unfolds of eight nude women.
    In contrast to the shepherd's muscular, naturalistically depicted body, their pale, ethereal forms indicate that they are apparitions.
    The women may symbolize enlightenment, harmony with nature, and erotic desire.
    Their frieze-like arrangement and stylized, rhythmic gestures recall the work of Puvis de Chavannes, which Holder greatly admired.
    This ambitious composition, first exhibited in Geneva in 1896, was one of the paintings that earned the Swiss artist notoriety for his exploration of sexuality, mortality, and the unconscious.


American, Dublin 1848–1907 Cornish, New Hampshire / The Met

    The Diana statue was originally on top of Madison Square Garden's tower.
    Saint-Gaudens made three different versions of the statue.
    The second version of the statue is on display in the Charles Engelhard Court of the American Wing.

Angelica and Medoro

French, Paris 1703–1770 Paris / The Met

    This painting is based on Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso.
    It depicts Angelica, the pagan daughter of an imaginary king of China, who abandoned the Christian knight Orlando for the knight Medoro, a North African Muslim.

Odalisque in Grisaille

French, Montauban 1780–1867 Paris / The Met

    This is an unfinished repetition, reduced in size and much simplified, of the celebrated Grande Odalisque of 1814 (Musée du Louvre, Paris), an imagined concubine in a Middle Eastern harem.
    The painting was central to Ingres's conception of ideal beauty, and its influence was bolstered by his longevity:Ingres continued to paint nudes like this one as late as the 1860s, by which time he had trained hundreds of followers.
    Paintings in shades of gray - en grisaille - were often made to establish variations in tone as a guide to engravers of black and white reproductive prints, but the intended purpose of this work remains uncertain.

The Woman in the Waves

French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz / The Met

    In 1864-1868 Courbet undertook a series of paintings of the female nude.
    He could not have failed to witness the triumph of Alexandre Cabanel's Birth of Venus (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) at the Salon of 1863, along with the popularity of similar representations by Cabanel's fellow academicians.

Woman with a Towel

French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris / The Met

    Degas used his fingers, brushes, and sharp implements to smudge, scrape, and polish this pastel, creating a sense of movement and texture, and revealing layers of brilliant color.
    Black outlines drawn over the pastel emphasize the contrapposto turn of the muscular and monumental nude.
    The date Degas inscribed on the sheet has traditionally been read as 1894 but 1898 is more likely.

The Last Judgment

Netherlandish, Cleve ca. 1485–1540/41 Antwerp / The Met

    This majestic scene is divided into heavenly and earthly zones, which are linked by two hovering angels blowing trumpets.
   Christ appears at the moment of judgment in a burst of light and color, surrounded by clouds and putti and flanked by the apostles
   He blesses the saved, shown at lower left, while Saint Michael shepherds the damned into hell burning in the distance at the right

Allegorical Figure Representing Geometry

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