Male Nudes in Art History

Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Boys (Boys Playing), 1911

Nudity was an important theme in the art of ancient Greece. The male body was glorified at sports competitions or religious holidays, it was seen as a symbol of the best sides of humanity. Female nudity was a symbol of sensitivity, childbearing, and fertility. And male nudity was associated with triumph, glory, and moral superiority.

Annibale Carracci

Annibale Carracci, Bacchus, ca. 1590-1591, National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

An Italian painter, famous in Bologna and Rome. Annibale Carracci was one of the promoters of the Baroque style of paintings. In Bacchus, Carracci creates a well-known figure from classical Greek mythology. Perhaps this is one of the brightest examples of nude men in art.

Bacchus is the God of wine and merry-making. He stares right at the viewers, inviting them to join him for a drink.


Caravaggio, Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All), Victorious Cupid, 1602

Caravaggio, Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All), Victorious Cupid, 1602

Caravaggio (1571-1610) was known mainly for his large religious paintings. In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of erotic love, desire, and attraction. In Victorious Cupid, Cupid is also portrayed as half-child and half-man. The model for Cupid was Cecco, Caravaggio’s servant, pupil, and possibly lover. The example of men naked art is really the portrait of Cecco rather than Cupid.

Carlo Levi

Carlo Levi, Arcadia, 1923

Carlo Levi was well aware of the poverty of southern Italy compared to the northern parts. Considering that the painting is called “Arcadia”, it was not only an example of men naked art but also a political commentary on the situation in Italy.

Arcadia was a mythical place in ancient Greece. The boy in the painting appears to be a young shepherd and his nakedness suggests his closeness to nature

Kuzma Sergeevich Petrov-Vodkin

Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Boys (Boys Playing), 1911

Boys (Boys Playing) was an iconic painting by Petrov-Vodkin, a Russian painter and writer, and one of the brightest examples of men naked art.

Petrov-Vodkin was inspired by two boys playing on a beach and the painting generated a powerful emotional impact. The two nude boys are seen playing in the background of green and blue. Their bodies are young, tall, and lanky, and occupying the whole canvas.

Jules-Cyrille Cavé

Jules-Cyrille Cave – Narcissus, 1890

Jules-Cyrille Cavé (1859-1940) was a French painter and known for his genre scenes and floral still life paintings. Narcissus fell deeply in love with himself, and Cavé painted the moment when he is about to kiss his own reflection. The figure is painted in the classical tradition of idealism and simplicity.

Anne-Louis Girodet

Anne-Louis Girodet, The Sleep of Endymion, 1791

In The Sleep of Endymion, also called Effet de lune or “effect of the Moon”, the mythical figure of Endymion is androgynous. Endymion’s true identity is unknown, it is assumed that he was a shepherd of perfect beauty. In The Sleep of Endymion, he is visited by Diana as a moonbeam.

The pose and perfect nudity suggest a classical influence on this iconic work of men naked art. But the mysterious light hints at romantic sensuality.


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