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Men Without Clothes: Heroic Nakedness and Greek Art

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The naked men of Greek art have been an excuse for male nakedness in more recent art, but the significance of male nakedness in classical art is debated. Osborne traces the history of the representation of the naked male body in Greek art and argues that although in early Greek art nakedness was unmarked, and clothing was used only to draw special attention to men, changes in visual rhetoric led artists to make increasingly detailed reference to the male body, causing a loss of semiotic innocence. Naked male bodies thus came to carry messages about sex as well as gender. The reinstatement of the naked male body in classical art followed the development of a highly artificial convention in which beardlessness was equated with sexual immaturity and held to render the male body asexual.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford (UK)

Publication date: November 1, 1997


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